The free speech rights of teachers became a debatable topic after the Facebook conversations between a group of Bradenton, Florida teachers made headlines yesterday. An online discussion concerning a particular student which one teacher referred to as “the evolutionary link between orangutans and humans” prompted a state investigation into the actions of G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School teachers, World News Daily (WND) reports.
Bay News 9 came into possession of the Facebook conversation from the Florida teachers which allegedly occurred before the end of the school year in May. Excerpts from the teacher’s Facebook conversation republished by WND detail comments attributed to G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School music teacher Lauren Orban. The posting reads, “I’m fairly convinced that one of my students may be the evolutionary link between orangutans and humans.”
Several other Florida elementary school teachers allegedly chimed in and joked about Orban’s reference and wanted to know which student she was talking about because the posted remarked caused them to “laugh out loud,” The Bradenton Herald reports. Second-grade teachers Laura Beth Cross and Emma Disley are also quoted in the Facebook conversation making fun of the student which was eventually identified by his initials. Cross was noted as allegedly responding, “Yup! Just who I suspected.”
The jesting about a student in a derogatory manner allegedly came to an abrupt halt when Jauana Johnson, the school registrar, joined the conversation demanding to know what the teachers meant by their remarks, WND notes. Johnson notified the student’s mother, Lisa Wade (shown in photo) who was extremely angry and called the local news media about the incident with the teachers on Facebook.
“My blood’s boiling. He’s not a monkey, He’s not an orangutan. He’s a human being,” Wade told Bay News 9. The angry mother also added, “It hurts. I’m disgusted with how they talked about my child. I send my child to school trusting them to teach him, not talk about him.”
School Superintendent Tim McGonegal sent the case of the teachers referring to a student as a orangutan on Facebook to the Professional Practices Commissions division at the Florida Department of Education. The teachers have been “verbally disciplined” by the elementary school principal, The Herald reports.
After reviewing the evidence from the teacher’s Facebook accounts, the Florida Department of Education could decide to revoke their teachers’ certificates. Wade hired an attorney to “press for more substantial action against the instructors,” according to WND. According to Wade, she has never been informed of any disciplinary issues with her son by the school.
“If my child is being out of hand, send him to the office. But don’t make comments about him on Facebook,” Wade told Bay News 9.
Manatee County school officials are in the process of creating a “policy to address proper conduct for teachers using social media,” WND reports.