More Teachers in Trouble

It’s hard enough being a teacher when your private life can come back to haunt you. It’s happened to me before and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again in the future.

Take a look at these recent stories:

Jarretta Hamilton was a teacher at Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Florida. She requested a future maternity leave from her administrators. This was shortly after getting married.

They did the math, realized she must have had premarital sex, and fired her.

“That’s when the question was posed to her, ‘Did you conceive prior to marriage?’” said Edward Gay, Hamilton’s lawyer.

He said Hamilton told administrators the truth, the baby was conceived about three weeks before the wedding, and she was fired one week later without being allowed to finish the school year.

Gay said he received a letter from Southland Christian School administrator Julie Ennis explaining the reasons for the termination.

“Jarretta was asked not to return because of a moral issue that was disregarded, namely fornication — sex outside of marriage,” Ennis wrote. “We request that Jarretta withdraw her complaint and consider the testimony of the Lord.”

The school then sent a letter to students and parents explaining why she was fired.

Hamilton is filing a lawsuit against the school.

Elizabeth Collins taught at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, an all-girls Catholic school in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

She blogged about her teaching experiences in a purposely vague way. A lot of teachers do this. They write about students using code names or they write about experiences that happened in class (good and bad) without referencing any student in particular.

But it’s a Catholic school so some parents keep tabs on her private life.

Collins writes:

I certainly don’t mind having readers and followers of my blog — in fact, that’s the point — but when it seems that certain people are using my blog or Tweets in an effort to try to “get me” for having opinions; when they are watching and waiting and racking up lists of petty grievances against me, and then making me out to be some sort of liberated-witch-of-a-woman who might feed a child a poisoned piece of candy (THIS IS ALL METAPHORICAL!)…no one needs that sort of stress. Especially when it’s utterly undeserved.

If I were ever guilty of anything, it is being guilty of trying to teach my students to think for themselves (and to write strong essays and speeches).

Wow. A teacher who wants students to think critically. We can’t have that now, can we…?

Here’s what happened:

One Saturday in February, she posted her thoughts about a student’s presentation… She criticized its tone and political outlook.

The student’s parents took quick exception to that post, telling the school that even though the blog did not identify their daughter by name, it was aimed at her and was an “attack on a child.”

The exchange triggered a chain of events that ended with the academy’s dismissing Collins in late April. “You have demonstrated a willingness to engage in inflammatory actions and have made a problematic situation worse,” her termination letter said.

Collins said she merely used the incident to make a point about teaching methods, but ended up being singled out for her political views.

“One thing I told my students is not to gloat, not to strike a hostile tone in their speeches… Then, of course, I heard a speech that did both of those things.”

Collins added that she felt “annoyance” because she disagreed with the politics of the speech and “dismay” that her message about the right tone was not getting through.

In Collins’ post, she responded to the speech by writing one of her own, saying she was “modeling” the correct approach to the assignment. Her piece encouraged students to move “beyond knee-jerk joining of their parents’ political party, and not become one-issue voters, to open their minds and consider the ramifications of their votes.”

Again… she’s trying to teach critical thinking and, dammit, those Catholic parents don’t want it.

Collins was fired by the school in April.

Collins continues to blog. In a May 5 post, she reflected back on her years as a teacher.

“I realized the magical moments that come with teaching – when you connect with students, when they get it, when you see the admiration and inspiration in their eyes,” she wrote.

But she added: “Teachers in private schools? They’re often sitting ducks and no one has their backs.”

In an interview, Collins said she was not sure she wants to return to the profession. “I feel so vulnerable,” she said. “If something this weird can happen, I’m not sure that I want to do it again.”

This is a pattern that we’ve seen before.

These teachers are never criticized for what they do in the classroom or for their ability to teach their subject. They are criticized for something completely unrelated that really should be irrelevant.

I don’t know why any qualified teacher would want to work at a private, religious school — unless they can’t find a job at a public school. They’re underpaid, underappreciated, and told to stop thinking for themselves if it doesn’t mesh with the teachings of the school.

It doesn’t matter if the teachers’ private thoughts are kept outside the classroom. The school wants none of it. And since they desperately need the tuition money from parents, if any of them complain, they bend over backwards to appease them.

It’s a horrible lesson to teach students: We want you to learn and grow and think for yourself… but if you ever want to work here in the future, we’ll ask you to throw away any opinions you have that we don’t like.

I’ve said this before, but parents better be desperate themselves if they’re sending their kids to a private, religious school. Unless the public schools around you are horrible, you’re hurting your kids by sending them to these places.

It’s not like public schools are perfect, but at least the teachers have some protection and are (ideally) judged by what they do in the classroom.

In my case, I have supportive administrators who only care about that. They don’t pry into my personal life. The parents in my community won’t get anywhere if they don’t like something I write on this site. Good. They shouldn’t be able to. When it comes to teaching math and knowing my subject area, I know what I’m doing, and that should be their only concern.

I would add: I completely agree with PZ Myers when he writes:

… I also know that a lot of you… are thinking that [Collins] deserves anything that happens to her, that she should know better than to talk about her teaching. You in the last group…you’re a bunch of assholes, and you’re part of the problem. Go away. I want teachers to write openly and frankly and honestly about teaching, and you don’t.


  • Bob

    My mother, who was a teacher, sent us to the local Catholic school partly because she didn’t want us getting bussed across town (we lived a block away from the nearest public school, and about six blocks from the Catholic school we ended up going to).

    But this was in the 60′s & 70′s, so the atmosphere may be different now. I came away with a quality education that continues to serve me well in my adult life, and – obviously – the religious indoctrination didn’t take all that well. (I still self-identify as a Catholic/Christian, but I’m one of those great unwashed who doesn’t agree with the Church about things like abortion or the death penalty.)

    But seriously? Firing a woman based on your calculations as to her conception date? Or a blog comment meant to underscore a lesson that was being taught (but apparently not learned)? Isn’t this *precisely* what Christ meant when He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”?

  • ASD

    In the first one – what the hell was it their business to ask?!! I would have told them to mind their own damn business! Why does it matter when someone had sex? It’s not your business. Churches and employers both need to learn that there are some questions you do *not* ask, and ‘when was your baby conceived’ is one of them.
    (And as a sidenote: how did she know? According to my mother, by the time you know you’re pregnant, you’ve probably been that way for a lot longer than you think.)
    In the second case, something makes me think that the kid whined to mummy and daddy about their bas mark, and then used the blog as ‘evidence’ of an ‘attack’. I don’t see that anywhere in the blog, and I understand the teacher’s frustration. Nothing grinds my gears more than when someone does the exact opposite of what you just told them to do. But it’s good that even in dismissal, she’s still trying to get her point across. I hope some of her students are on her RSS feed.

  • http://centerforinquiry.net/dc Simon

    This is why we need strong teacher’s unions. This kind of behavior is completely unacceptable on behalf of the schools.

  • lilybird

    Your first example infuriates me! What a horrible invasion of her privacy for the administrators to try to figure out when her baby was conceived. And impressively hypocritical, considering over 90% of Americans have premarital sex–undoubtedly including some of the school’s administrators and other teachers.

  • http://riotingmind.blogspot.com/ BeamStalk

    I had a friend that was fired from a High School coaching job with a religious school because he lived with his girlfriend.

    When I talked to him about it, he seemed like he had turned away from religion because of it. I need to talk to him more.

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com Paul

    I agree that the first example is horrible, and I hope she wins her lawsuit. The second example, as I read the article, is not so clear cut. Collins does appear to have brought her personal politics into the classroom. She also blogged under her real name, and talked about actual situations in her current classroom. Sure, she didn’t identify her employer, co-workers or students by name. But believing that they wouldn’t find her blog and recognise themselves was pure stupidity on her part. If you want to blog about your job, your boss, your co-workers, your students/clients, etc., you need to be very careful to preserve their anonimity. Protecting their identity in the public eye (which is the definition of the online world) has to be paramount. In this instance, that had to mean blogging entirely anonymously. By revealing her own real name on her blog, Collins was failing to adequately safeguard the identities of those she blogged about. As many of those subjects were minors, I think she’ll be lucky if she isn’t sued or charged with a crime in this instance. I certainly have no sympathy for her losing her job.

  • Enrys

    Because you just CANNOT teach despite numerous awards, the proper skills, and a strong curriculum if you had SEX before MARRIAGE, or you’re and EVIL ATHEIST, or you DISAGREE with the CHURCH. What a LOAD of SHIT!

  • Bob

    I was thinking, ‘So much for Christian/Catholic forgiveness …’ when it occurred to me, it’s not just about premarital sex.

    It’s about the possibility that this woman is having sex for pleasure, not procreation.

    In other words, it’s ENTIRELY about what they *THINK* she’s doing, whether or not that’s true.

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    At the school I just quit, an unqualified teacher was assigned to teach an anthropology class. His assignments? Everyone write a research paper about the Ark of the Covenant. Everyone write a research paper about Masada. This teacher led prayers before each track practice and listened to Rush Limbaugh every morning before school started. I guest taught his class and gave more open-ended (and fun) assignments, including an ethnography assignment. He’ll be back, but I couldn’t stand the way he (and other teachers) injected religion into all aspects of our “public” school.

  • http://yrif.org Your Religion Is False

    Like Paul, I have mixed feelings about the Collins case.

    Perhaps the student’s presentation merited the criticism, but (if so) the appropriate thing to do would have been to give the feedback to the student (and possibly the class) directly. Publicly blogging about it (in a way that everyone in the class can easily figure out who you’re talking about it) seems passive-aggressive at best.

    If a teacher had a problem with my kid, I’d much rather she told my kid than blogged about it. And critically blogging about your students is not the same thing as teaching them to think critically.

    Does this merit her firing? Maybe not. It sounds like she just crossed the wrong people (and rubbed them the wrong way on account of her politics). But her actions still strike me as inappropriate, which makes it tougher for me to sympathize.

    BTW, I think it’s terrible for PZ to make this out as a “freedom of speech” issue. There are some things that we judge as being inappropriate behavior toward young kids. If the teacher had blogged “Student Y is a moron and I hate having her in my class” in a place where Student Y could read and identify herself, would he defend that also as “freedom of speech”?

  • Pickle

    I can’t believe the school in the first example! Firing the teacher was horrible enough, but sending a letter home with the kids explaining WHY she was fired? A person’s sex life is no one’s F’ing business! And it’s not like she didn’t already know she was marrying her husband 3 weeks before the wedding anyway! She’s probably better off finding another job.

  • stogoe

    Protecting their identity in the public eye has to be paramount.

    Unfounded assertion.

    Please explain in detail how you came by this dubious assumption.

  • Aj

    Paul,

    If you want to blog about your job, your boss, your co-workers, your students/clients, etc., you need to be very careful to preserve their anonimity. Protecting their identity in the public eye (which is the definition of the online world) has to be paramount. In this instance, that had to mean blogging entirely anonymously. By revealing her own real name on her blog, Collins was failing to adequately safeguard the identities of those she blogged about.

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this. Anonymity is not paramount, it’s not a right, it is not more important than the ability to express experiences. Retaining privacy is the goal of anonymity, that is a right that should be respected. The only people who could work out who she was talking about would be the people that experienced the events described. As long as she didn’t name anyone, and didn’t link different events to the same subjects, she was not breaching anyone’s privacy to anyone else but the witnesses (who would be able to work out) that the subject had already forfeit privacy to. In regards to the public, she did adequately safeguard the identities, thus retaining the privacy of any individuals.

  • http://www.givesgoodemail.com Givesgoodemail

    …and what does all this say about teaching in schools that narrowly fine a blinker-based religious aspect?

    Teach somewhere else–somewhere that respects the teaching process. Certainly not at the above-mentioned religious schools, or here.

  • Heidi

    I was reading PZ’s take on this earlier, and I’m glad you put it up here, too, Hemant. Was thinking about your experience when I read it over there.

    I wish non-religious people would quit supporting these religious schools. More kids in the public and non-religious private schools = more teaching jobs in those schools (ideally). And the last thing we need to be doing is contributing money to church organizations.

  • Icaarus

    @stogoe, please look up FOIP, or other laws that strictly state that the interaction between students and teachers and realize that this relationship is removed from freedom of speech. I might agree with the school firing her, I have been in a situation where a professor’s public opinion of me threatened my continued education. If her comments could be in any way directed back to a specific student then that violates the privacy of the student in an unnecessary way which could stick with that person for a while.

    As for the other case while I feel for the teacher, there is a rule when it comes to questions of that level of personal nature, respond with ask my lawyer. They had no right to ask the question, and without her admission they could do nothing about it, but by answering she put herself at risk. It should not be this way but it is.

    Final comment – careful what you say, especially when you are a teacher or in any level of academia.

  • plutosdad

    Blogging about work is dangerous. In my twitter and facebook I am careful to never ever mention work. I can think of at least one case where HR contacted someone about a facebook post, and recently legal announced to us all that if we ever post anything about a vendor we have any relationship with to disclose our employment status).

    She might have been fired for her political views, but I think it will be hard to know for sure.

    now certainly everyone needs to lighten up, there is no reason to threaten to fire someone unless they take down a post (happened to someone I know) but … it happens to all of us.

  • HumanistDad

    Wish me luck! In an hour I go to a meeting with the School Board’s HR department. Apparently, one of the complaints is that I showed a video about ‘evolution’ without balancing it with another point of view.

    -sigh-

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  • lurker111

    I’ll go with Paul on this one.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.net Yet Another Atheist

    @HumanistDad:

    It’s so sad that our own schools can’t even realize that evolution is fact and that there are NO other alternative views. Much like there are no alternative views to which celestial bodies revolve around each other.

  • Trace

    Ms. Collins was less than wise. If my son had been his student I would not have liked her talking about his class behaviour/performance/poltical views in a public forum. If the parents of the student were able to identify their child by the description provided by this teacher, others did too (possibly classmates). Not an ideal situation for anybody involved and not particularly clever of her. Of course I am not privy to all that transpired so I may be wrong.

    In the link to Ms. Hamilton’s case:

    “The suit also alleges invasion of privacy for school officials disclosing the reason behind her termination to parents to students”

    For the same reasons stated above I find it poor (I was going to say shitty but will not) of the school to do this. If an explanation to parents was needed a more “vague” one could have been provided.

    Also, I find it interesting that Christian pro-lifers (I am asuming the school administrators are) did not aplaud Ms. Hamilton’s decision to wed and bring the product of their “fornication” into the world.

    Hypocrites.

  • Trace

    oh, and HumanistDad, good luck!

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  • Bob

    @HumanistDad:

    Doubtless, there will be the old fish ‘evolution is just a theory’ thrown onto the table. So is gravity, but it’s not belief optional.

    Good luck.

  • Emily

    PZ yet again ftw

  • Marcel Kincaid

    Paul writes

    As many of those subjects were minors, I think she’ll be lucky if she isn’t sued or charged with a crime in this instance. I certainly have no sympathy for her losing her job.

    PZ writes of him and those like him:

    … I also know that a lot of you… are thinking that [Collins] deserves anything that happens to her, that she should know better than to talk about her teaching. You in the last group…you’re a bunch of assholes, and you’re part of the problem. Go away. I want teachers to write openly and frankly and honestly about teaching, and you don’t.

    Paul has gone even beyond those people in positing a nonexistent crime.

    Go away, Paul, far far away.

  • Alex

    From the perspective of a current student, I would like to add something to this conversation. What Ms. Collins did is not only abhorrent because it publicly humiliated a child, it also made her a less effective teacher. If she wants to teach students to think critically she must provide an environment of safety and trust. If students are worried that their ideas or work will be ridiculed in a public forum they’ll never want to open up in her classroom and that is really doing the students a disservice. No matter what her political views are she should have been fired because by saying what she did in a public place she is undermining the job that she is supposed to be doing.

    As a student, I am glad that I have never had the misfortune of having a teacher like that.

  • John L

    I’m sure you all thought the same thing. Jarretta should ask how they know this to be immoral. It says no where in the Bible that you can’t fornicate before marriage with the one you love. So they’ll forced to say, “Because it just is.”

  • Rosanna

    It infuriates me to hear stories like these! It sounds like way too many times it’s more important to have sheep “believing” the “right thing” that to have people really be “with the program”.
    No wonder Catholics lament having fewer people in their churches and schools. As a believer, I wonder HOW on Earth it is possible to claim that “believing the right thing” is more important than… well, having faith for REAL.
    I usually get along with atheists because I’d rather be in the company of a person whose logic leads them to think that there is no God rather than being with a bunch of sheep.

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com Paul

    @Marcel Kincaid,

    PZ wants open discussion of school and teaching issues, but I read his blog, and while he discusses his employer in general (the school) he never talks about specific employers, co-workers, or students in any way in which those people might be identified by another. I have no problem with Collins discussing school policies, or difficulties in teaching today’s kids in genral, but she talked about one specific student’s work in a disparaging manner in public. She deserves to be disciplined for that.

  • http://techforclassrooms.wordpress.com Amy Campbell

    I wish that attitude of punishing teachers for their views outside the classroom was limited to private schools. Sadly, it is not. Teachers in public schools have the same worries, at least if they are teaching in a conservative community.

  • Citizen Z

    Elizabeth Collins should have been fired, but not for any reasons relating to anonymity or public blogging. From the article:

    (Though she never said so on her blog, in an interview Collins said that the student had given a speech about “Obama’s lies.” She provided The Inquirer with copies of documents from the school and the family about the events leading to her firing, and her responses.)

    In Collins’ post, she responded to the speech by writing one of her own, saying she was “modeling” the correct approach to the assignment. Her piece encouraged students to move “beyond knee-jerk joining of their parents’ political party, and not become one-issue voters, to open their minds and consider the ramifications of their votes.”

    The essay criticized many George W. Bush administration policies and defended the Obama administration.

    Yes, she was “modeling” the correct approach all right: agree with the teacher’s opinions or she will make an example of you. Collins’ actions were totally outrageous, irresponsible, and an abuse of her authority as a teacher. If she had truly thought it was merely a matter of “right tone”, as she put it, she should have written a model speech with the same anti-Obama viewpoint but the “right tone”. I was under the impression that educated people were capable of arguing in favor of an opposing viewpoint to their own. (The fact that she did not have the wit to do that or realize that what she did was improper means I am not inclined to take her word that she only objected to the “tone”.)

  • trixr4kids

    @Alex

    What Ms. Collins did is not only abhorrent because it publicly humiliated a child, it also made her a less effective teacher. If she wants to teach students to think critically she must provide an environment of safety and trust. If students are worried that their ideas or work will be ridiculed in a public forum they’ll never want to open up in her classroom

    Who says she ridiculed the child? Who says she humiliated her? She expressed annoyance–on her blog–that a kid didn’t “get” the assignment. Without mentioning the kid’s name. She should be fired for this?

    Citizen Z: Collins’ problem with the kid’s essay was not its politics but its tone. The model essay she wrote expressed her own politics, sure–that model essay was published IN HER OWN BLOG, not in the classroom.

    “Yes, she was “modeling” the correct approach all right: agree with the teacher’s opinions or she will make an example of you.”

    No. Do the assignment as given, or the teacher will kvetch about you–without using your name–on HER OWN BLOG.

    I wonder. If the teacher’s politics had been anti-Obama and the kid’s pro, and everything else happened as given, would you still maintain that it was OK to fire the teacher for remarks she made on her own time, in her own blog?

  • Chris

    I don’t know how people can teach in the USA. Here in New Zealand I often talk about my point of view on matters here with the students and this is encourged. It helps the students voice their own thoughts and opinions. Glad I live in “Gods Own” :) lol

  • Citizen Z

    Citizen Z: Collins’ problem with the kid’s essay was not its politics but its tone.

    I read her “model” and she wouldn’t know the right tone if it smacked her in the face. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural it ain’t.

    I wonder. If the teacher’s politics had been anti-Obama and the kid’s pro, and everything else happened as given, would you still maintain that it was OK to fire the teacher for remarks she made on her own time, in her own blog?

    My opinion would be the same.

    It’s a matter of pedagogy. Now I may have been a little hyperbolic, that’s not necessarily a cause for termination, but she simply has no business trying to teach kids rhetoric. It’s one thing if you’re a math or science teacher and you discuss politics on a blog, it’s quite another when you’re “model(ing) precisely what you, as teacher, are asking students to do”. The teachers I have known and respected have made it a point, not only to avoid making their own views known, but to avoid hot-button issues entirely when teaching rhetoric. Otherwise the students end up repeating bumper-sticker slogans and rehashing the dreadful kind of “arguments” you find on shows like the O’Reilly Factor. The teachers I’ve known actually put some effort into thinking of particularly unusual positions and subjects for their students, to avoid them just regurgitating what some talking head has said, while an unusual topic forces them to engage their brain cells. There’s also a similarity to why government officials shouldn’t lead prayers, except with politics instead of religion. Teachers shouldn’t be seen to favor one group over another, and should be strict about eliminating their own biases. After reading her model speech, I have no confidence she can do that.

  • Dan W

    Wait, so the first teacher, fired for having pre-marital sex (which is none of their damn business), taught at Southland Christian School, and the second teacher taught at a Catholic school… I think the lesson from this is clear. If you’re a teacher, avoid teaching at religious schools where they might fire you for what you do in your private life.

  • Rob

    And teach at a public school to lead the classroom in prayer without getting in serious trouble:

    Natchez Democrat Article

  • Christophe Thill

    The very respectable Dr. Isis said in her blog that, as a rule, you should never blog about your students. You can never tell if it’s possible or not to know who you’re talking about. More often than you think, it will be. I think she’s right…

  • stogoe

    Dr. Isis? Really? You might as well quote Chris Mooney.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist Isis the Scientist

    Indeed. Dr. Isis?!?! Who is that asshole?

  • pasta4dinner

    Do you think its OK to put people’s grades on assignments online? If she was not extremely careful to hide the child’s identity that is basically what she did. Is it illegal? I don’t think so. But schools have policies (even public schools) against doing such things. This is fairly standard. She could have wrote this blog in a way to disguise her student better. What she did was inappropriate. The firing was a bit extreme, and I question whether she would have been fired if her politics went the other way.

    I am completely in favor of teachers writing openly about teaching, but they are not allowed to disclose people’s performances on assignments in public.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    I can tell you from personal experience that this sort of thing happens at public, state-funded universities too.

  • http://reformedtrombonist.blogspot.com/ Reformed Trombonist

    > But it’s a Catholic school so some parents keep tabs on her private life.

    Oh come on. She posted on a blog. If she wanted to keep her feelings about the student private, she didn’t have to post them on the world-wide web.

    > Wow. A teacher who wants students to think critically. We can’t have that now, can we…?

    It depends, doesn’t it, on whether thinking “critically” is code for “must agree with the teacher”?

    > Again… she’s trying to teach critical thinking and, dammit, those Catholic parents don’t want it.

    Darn. Paying customers win again.

    > They are criticized for something completely unrelated that really should be irrelevant.

    It isn’t unrelated to teaching when a teacher takes her quarrel with a student to the world-wide web, sorry.

  • Tom Hanks

    Seems to me, that from reading this, many of you should take another class in reading comprehension. Collins’ point in her model speech was that “if you’re going to be contentious and prickly, just be less so.” She showed how to do that.

    No reason at all why she should have taken the anti-Obama stance as an example. No, if your point, as hers was, is that some people are going to disagree with you, but just don’t make them crazy-mad with hostile words, she did a fine job.

    She is a well-known writer. I personally would want an actual writer teaching my kids writing.

    People are just stupid. That means you people. Hostile enough for ya?

  • TeachersAreGreat

    What isn’t mentioned here is the fact that Ms. Collins was threatened: “I want to see you dead on the street” were the words used and the administrators sat there and said nothing to diffuse that and did not defend the teacher.

    This wouldn’t have escalated if the situation had been handled properly in the first place. The Administrators should be fired!

  • http://reformedtrombonist.blogspot.com/ Reformed Trombonist

    > Collins’ point in her model speech was that “if you’re going to be contentious and prickly, just be less so.” She showed how to do that.

    Depends on your perspective, I think. To some of us, she may have toned down the prickly, but not without ramping up on the condescension and self-righteousness. Some people find that sort of thing to be just another flavor of “prickly”.

    But that’s hardly the point. Who would want his own child to be subject to such criticism by a teacher on the world-wide web?

    From the Inquirer’s story:

    > At a March 3 meeting attended by school officials, Collins, the Whites, and their daughter, all agreed that Collins would not blog about the daughter and that the school would “take appropriate internal remedial action,” according to a letter to the school written by A. James Johnston, an attorney for the Whites. . . .

    > In a March 4 blog post, Collins wrote about a fictional encounter between a “Mr. Bratwurst” and “Miss Petunia Fluffyglow” that included remarks similar to ones she said James White made to her at the meeting the previous day.

    Those posts referred to in the Inquirer article have apparently been taken down at Collins’ blog, so I can’t judge the context. But Collins did agree not to blog about the girl again, and yet the next day continues to do so under thinly veiled (and apparently not very complimentary) pseudonyms. There are probably better methods of disagreeing without being prickly.

  • Tom Hanks

    Whoa, @ReformedTrombonist, wherever did Ms. Collins blog about that girl? She didn’t do that; she never intended to do that. It was purely a (small and blown-way-out-of-proportion) mistake.

    What she did do was blog about the threats she received, albeit in a clever way.

    She never agreed not to blog about what happened to her in her own life. I applaud her for speaking the truth. That man should not have been allowed to say those horrible things to her. He was way out of line. He got Collins fired, which is what he wanted, but frankly, his kid should have been expelled because of him and his horrific incivility.

  • Tom Hanks

    By the way, @Reformed Trombonist, your age is showing with the repeated references to “world wide web.” No one says that anyone. It’s just stupid.

    Not only that, but it makes it seem as though billions of people read whatever this teacher wrote. Any blogger will tell you he or she is lucky to have a handful of readers, until they get established.

  • Hahn

    Both of these teachers were victimized by idiots. What is worse is that the idiots were not only, it seems, people from their respective schools. What a teacher does on her own time, especially if it hurts no one else (and I take serious issue with anyone who writes or thinks that Collins hurt anyone. What a crock of crapola. She wrote about realizing a lesson didn’t click, nothing more). What the schools have done here is make themselves look bad. No one with any brains can respect a school run by people who fire a woman for “fornication” (so classless it’s sickening), or one that gives in to the nastiest, possibly craziest parents in the contiguous 48 states under threat of losing a bit of money. How’s that working out? My guess is that they’re going to lose out far more in the long run, and so will everyone associated with them. Very, very sad. It just goes to show that people cannot trust private schools to do the right thing in any respect. They are not accountable to the government and only care about money.

  • Swamp Drainer

    This makes me sick. Teachers are constantly being attacked and fired for the most insipid reasons. Why do we let these Neanderthals control our (private) schools? How could any self respecting person sit there and let a good woman get fired when she is pregnant and married, or let a man threaten and scream at a wonderful teacher, and not say anything to stop it? Now, it’s just going to happen more, now that the bullies and reactionary types have gotten their way. Nice going, Christians. You’ve just give me the perfect reason never to attend church again. All churches and schools need to drain the swamp of these people. They are doing far more harm than good.

  • B.C. White

    The firing is justified if these teachers have contrivened the terms of their contract. For example, in a religious school, most parents expect consistency between the moral aspects taught in the classroom and people’s behaviours outside the classroom (other organizations expect the same of their employees). I think most people associated with a Christian school system expect that terms somehow also includes outside behaviour as well as behaviour in the classroom (although obviously not to the point of deliberately spyiny on people). Most teachers agree to uphold the school’s community standards when they are hired which includes such behaviour as the teacher described who was fired. This is reasonable as this same general principle applies for any group or individual. People are free to accept or reject the conditions of their contracts. If they reject them they are not hired, if they accept them they are expected to abide by them to the extent that they are clear, don’t put them in serious risk of injury, are lawful etc. The Christian community concept or ideal of behaviour is that a person’s life is not compartmentalized and how they act in public and private is consistent (obviously no person’s life is ever entirely consistent between these two spheres and Christian groups must take this into considerations when considering firing people.)

    However, as many people correctly indicate in their comments for these Christian based groups, there is something terribly wrong with firing a person in the ways described and prying into their private lives for the purposes of “determining their sins or wrongdoings”. Also, there is something inherently wrong with firing people for power reasons related to political motivations when the people fired are encouraging debate, discussion and critical thinking about important issues. Although I think the school community has every right to fire a teacher for breaking their agreements, I believe it is ethically wrong and unwise to do so in the Christian context without careful considerations of other important considerations such as the following:

    1. The Christian community is suppose to be primarily about extending grace, even over upholding important moral precepts or “rules of living”. Jesus set the standard when he did not condemn the woman caught in adultry, even though he had every right to do so. He demonstrated incredible wise use of power and probably more effectively influenced the woman’s life through his kindness.

    2. What good does it do to impose harsh actions on people, even people who should know better (like the teacher who was sexually active before marriage), this only reinforces stereotypes and it doesn’t help the individual to understand their responsibility within their educational community. If the religious educational community can’t effectively help its members to understand the importance of certain behaviours they will be unlikely to influence people outside their community.

    3. Christian groups should be the opposite of groups using power to enforce political agendas and motivations. If the rule of the community is truly to “love others” then different views not only must be listened to, they must be taken seriously. Critical thinking and debate shouldn’t be avoided but encouraged especially within the Christian educational system.

    I sympathize both with people within and outside the Christian community who have not always been shown grace. We Christians often do a very poor job of following Jesus example and teachings and make it very difficult for people to understand the benefits of being a Christian.

  • http://reformedtrombonist.blogspot.com Reformed Trombonist

    >
    > By the way, @Reformed Trombonist, your age is showing with the repeated references to “world wide web.” No one says that anyone. It’s just stupid.

    Just call me Gramps, sonny boy. I’m so old, in fact, that I can remember a time when nobody believed arguments were won with with question-begging epithets such as “old” and “stupid”.

    > Not only that, but it makes it seem as though billions of people read whatever this teacher wrote. Any blogger will tell you he or she is lucky to have a handful of readers, until they get established.

    If you’re in the Phillipines or Malaysia or Philadelphia, you can read what she posted. That’s what makes the web “world-wide”. Nobody said the entire planet was hanging on her every word.

  • Marylin

    Ms. Collins taught my daughter and not only was she a great teacher, but she was challenging and sweet in the most refreshing way. The students really took to her and having my child come home excited about English class was so refreshing. I believe that people who do not know the entire story or this teacher should not be commenting, especially based on their political or religious beliefs. Religion is one of the things that made that family feel they could go after Ms. Collins. The irony there disgusts me. It is indeed a free speech issue, in a way, but that family kept arguing that teachers have no free speech. So which is it? They have it, but teachers don’t? Teachers have it, too? Everyone has it? The end point here is that everyone gets a say, but slander is wrong in any capacity. Ms. Collins never did anything wrong except try to teach a kid from a family who apparently didn’t want the lesson. We’ve all lost out now.


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