On the surface, the story I wrote for Reuters seemed simple: a New Jersey teacher calls her students “future criminals” on Facebook, parents get wind of it, and the school wants her out.
But, in reporting the story, I found it far more layered and nuanced than merely a case of an employee using poor judgement on social media.
In reading the court documents, the tensions in play were clear: a disgruntled, frustrated teacher working in a poor, urban community with parents acutely sensitive to how their children are perceived and treated.
She claimed, in the week before the incident, that a student had hit her. That others had stolen from her. School administrators and parents saw her comments (she wrote, “I am not a teacher — I am a warden for future criminals.”) as racially charged and painfully insensitive.
The endgame: an administrative law judge ruled she should be fired. The district does not want her back.