PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the first time, Philadelphia schools chief Arlene Ackerman is publicly weighing in on the case of the teacher in the district’s so-called “rubber room.”

Hope Moffett is the eleventh-grade English teacher at Audenried High School who was forced to report to a basement disciplinary room for the last two weeks (see related story).  The district says she put students at risk by giving them SEPTA tokens and encouraging them to join a school walkout to protest plans to convert Audenried to a charter.

The district is taking steps to fire Moffett. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman says it’s not about  free speech — it’s about kids being out of school without permission.

“For me, it’s not about Miss Moffett,” Ackerman said. “It could have been anybody. It could have been any teacher. The minute you endanger the welfare of these young people, my job is to step in and say, ‘No, that’s not going to happen.'”

About a dozen of Moffett’s students joined her at yesterday’s School Reform Commission meeting, some of them wearing T-shirts reading, “Free Hope.”

Reported by Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio

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