There is no profession in America less willing to stand by their employees and more willing to overreact to a few crank calls than school administrators.
All that it takes is for one patron to call in with a complaint and you can rest assured that a teacher will be forced to take the fall.
The latest victim of this sorry trend is Jim Piculas, a middle school substitute teacher in Pasco County, Florida.
The telephone call that spelled the end of Jim Piculas’ career as a substitute teacher in Pasco County came on a January day about a week after he performed the disappearing-toothpick trick for a group of rapt middle school students.
Pat Sinclair, who oversees substitute teachers in the Pasco County School District, was on the phone. She told Piculas there had been a complaint about his performance at Rushe Middle School in Land O’ Lakes.
He asked what she meant. “She said, ‘You’ve been accused of wizardry,’ ” Piculas said
He said the statement seemed bizarre to him, like something out of Harry Potter. Piculas said he replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He said he also told Sinclair, “It’s not black magic. It’s a toothpick.”
It is pretty obvious that Piculas has not yet received his Wizardry Diploma. After all, the toothpick trick is certainly not on the level of the “Stupify,” “Incendio,” “Furnunculus,” or even “Rictusempra” spells of a full fledged wizard. Harry Potter and his friends at Hogworts were doing more sophisticated magic after just one year.
In Fact, Piculas seems to have broken the first rule of Wizardry, “Don’t tell your victim how to do the trick.
Piculas said he thinks his troubles all come down to the disappearing-toothpick trick and a student who may have interpreted the trick as wizardry.
The trick requires a toothpick and transparent tape. A sleight-of-hand maneuver causes the toothpick to disappear then reappear. At least, so it seems. In reality, the toothpick hides behind the performer’s thumb, held in place by the tape.
“The whole thing lasted 45 seconds,” Piculas said. He said the students liked the trick. He showed them how to do it so they could perform it at home.
The students at Rushe Middle seem to be a sensitive lot.
One student in the Rushe Middle class apparently took the trick the wrong way, Piculas said. He said he was told the student became so traumatized that the student’s father complained.
The student was traumatized, but Pinclas’s career dream has come to an end.
Piculas had worked as a substitute teacher for eight or nine months, spending time at 15 schools. He said he also was working toward teacher certification with the dream of being hired full time. That appears unlikely now. Piculas said he applied for a job as a GED instructor but wasn’t allowed to interview.
“My whole career is in limbo,” he said.