Marylin Zuniga, a first-year teacher of the third grade at New Jersey’s Forest Street Elementary School, has been fired.
According to the NJ website, Zuniga had allowed, and some say encouraged, her students to write “get-well” letters to a convicted cop killer.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, a 61-year-old poet who’d once been on death row before getting that converted to a life sentence for the slaying of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, had been hospitalized due to “complications from diabetes,” notes Fox News.
When Zuniga told her students about this, some inquired about writing Abu-Jamal get-well cards. The teacher later tweeted about her students’ inquiries, thinking this would be a good chance to talk about “compassion.”
When it got back to the school board, however, Marylin was suspended. On Wednesday, the Orange school board decided to terminate her.
While there is an overwhelming outcry against Marylin Zuniga for allowing the assignment to move forward, she’s not without her share of supporters. NJ reports that many of them attended the meeting to consider her termination.
One was her brother Rob, who said he “couldn’t be prouder of my little sister.” Others were local civil rights activists.
Zuniga did speak in her own defense, taking issue with the idea that the board would consider terminating her over the assignment.
In comments to the board, she had this to say.
“I stand in front of you today because there’s a community behind me, and because there’s people here of the community, of the Orange community and the surrounding communities, that support me. There’s people around the nation who support me, who believe I need to be reinstated and I believe that I need to be reinstated.
My students need me in the classroom. My students have requested that I come back to the classroom. They miss me and they’ve been asking for me, and that’s what’s most important. No one is thinking about the students.”
Some also wonder, like Michael Coard of Philly Mag, whether Abu-Jamal is a cop killer at all.
Still, some were fine with the school board’s decision, particularly Orange resident Gloria Stewart, who wondered that if the assignment was about compassion, “you could’ve written to somebody in a nursing home… You could’ve written to someone else that was sick to show compassion.”
What do you think, readers? Does a third grade teacher have any business doing what Marylin Zuniga did, allowing her students to write get-well notes to a convicted cop killer? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via NJ, linked above]