Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teacher "Hates" Students on Facebook, Lies, Jokes About Child's Death - Reinstated! - COTW #78

What should fifth grade students learn from their teachers? Honesty? Compassion? Respect? Proper use of an apostrophe to indicate possession? These sound like things the teacher in this Case of the Week needs to learn.

Here are the cringe-worthy facts:
  • The day after an NYC student drowned on a field trip to the beach, the NYC teacher at the heart of this case posted on Facebook: "After today, I am thinking the beach sounds like a wonderful idea for my 5th graders! I HATE THEIR GUTS! They are the devils (sic) spawn!" (is it nitpicking to point out the failure to use an apostrophe in "devils"?).
  • Her friend asked if she would "let little Kwame float away." The teacher replied on Facebook, "Yes, I wld not throw a life jacket for a million!!"
At this point, one of her Facebook friends (not to be confused with real friends) turned her posts over to an assistant principal.
  • When questioned, the teacher lied by saying that she didn't remember the posts but that one of her friends had access to her page (this is the kind of response you'd expect from a 5th grade student, not a 5th grade teacher).
  • A school district investigator questioned the friend, who shockingly took full responsibility for the posts!... until the investigator explained the concept of incarceration for perjury... then the friend admitted that the teacher had asked her to lie.
Well, what do you think happened? She got fired. Does that shock your sense of fairness? Well, here's the New York court's opinion in Rubino v. City of New York. The court concluded that the teacher's "termination is so disproportionate to her offense as to shock one's sense of fairness" and therefore vacated her termination under a New York education law.

Look, I don't practice in New York or know anything about its education law . . . but you're telling me that a teacher who jokes about a local student drowning, "HATES [her students'] GUTS," wishes that they would drown, lies to her supervisors, and conspires with a friend to interfere in the investigation, can not only keep her job but it's actually against the law to fire her!?

You can read more, including some lively discussion, over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Sidenote: she reportedly makes $78,885/year.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.