Here’s a fact no one likes to admit: Teachers get frustrated by certain students. And they talk about it. They share stories in the faculty lounge, tell their non-teacher friends, and vent online. It happens in every job. It’s not news.
And as long as the teacher remains professional in the classroom, it shouldn’t be news.
But in Florida, one atheist teacher’s message on a private Facebook page somehow went public, and conservatives are now picking on her as if she’s the Antichrist.
Merritt Brown Middle School teacher Susan Creamer apparently vented her frustrations on the Atheists of Bay County’s private page about how students were lashing out against her because she’s an atheist.
There is a bevy of boys in one of my classes (middle school) who are taking turns either inviting me to their church or leaving (anonymously) flyers inviting me to church events. Today I found one on the A/V cart I use for a podium. Every time any child sneezes, they loudly say “God bless you!” and look in my direction. I have complained twice to my principal — once last month and once today. She has spoken privately to one or two of the little cretins, but it seems to do NO GOOD. I am feeling bullied and harassed. It has become intolerable. I don’t like talking with the parents because, for all I know, the parents are encouraging them. Any suggestions?
The “cretins” word is unnecessarily harsh, but the situation is certainly concerning. The students are basically treating the teacher as a target for proselytizing, and not just in some innocent accidental way. It wouldn’t be okay if a teacher not-so-subtly invited students to her church, nor would it be okay for atheist students to constantly tell their religious teacher that she’s foolish for thinking God exists. That’s not what that relationship should be about.
So if this teacher is bothered to the point where she can’t do her job effectively, and her administrators aren’t resolving the issue on her behalf, I get why she’d ask other atheists for help.
But that’s not the story here. The story is that a teacher talked shit about her students on Facebook and the school is investigating the situation.
In an email, district officials wrote:
“Bay District Schools prides itself on providing a safe, protected environment for all students at all times.
Teachers are encouraged and trained, to keep clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives to ensure that the classroom remains a neutral and supportive environment.
This training and related School Board policy includes guidelines for interactions on all social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook. We do not condone the use of disparaging comments about our students in any form, on any social media platform or in any school.
Unfortunately, like any other organizations of our size, we have had to address these issues occasionally with our employees.”
That’s a boilerplate response and it’s fine. But if administrators had to punish teachers for venting about their students in private, no teacher would be immune. As far as we know, Creamer hasn’t been punished, nor should she be.
One conservative news site falsely characterized the situation as saying the teacher was accusing students of harassment just for saying “God bless you” after she sneezed.
That’s a complete distortion of the truth.
They also quoted a parent of one of the students:
Parent Crystal Mosely pointed out several serious issues Creamer’s comments raise for parents in a letter to school superintendent Bill Husfelt.
“First and foremost she should not be discussing her religious preferences (or lack thereof) with any of these students,” Mosley wrote. “Had she not been proudly boasting of her atheism these children would not know of her personal beliefs and I would not be addressing this situation.
“Secondly, as an adult in a professional occupation her choice of words to describe her students is completely unprofessional and completely out of line,” she continued. “Third, for her to see out suggestions from a group on social media of how to handle her students (my children) has me outraged?”
1) There’s no evidence Creamer talked about her atheism with the students. Believe it or not, students know how to Google their teachers. It’s possible they found out about her beliefs without any action on her part.
But if Mosely wants to punish teachers who mention their religious beliefs in the classroom, let’s do it. We’ll start with all the Christian teachers who wear a cross pendant, keep a Bible on their desk, or mention their church or faith in front of students.
Is Mosely still on board?
2) Yes, the wording was unprofessional. It was also said in private. I’d only be concerned if she let her feelings cloud her professionalism in the classroom.
3) Again, teachers (like all professionals) vent to their friends and routinely ask for advice from people who might be in a similar situation. If her concern is getting harassed for her atheism, then asking a local atheist group seems perfectly appropriate.
The Washington Times, another conservative outlet, repeated the lie that Creamer felt harassed merely because kids said “God bless you.” In fact, the issue is that when kids say it, they yell it in her direction as if to condemn her for her atheism. And that’s only one of several things they’re doing to belittle her.
One more conservative outlet acted like Creamer was bullying her students (with no evidence whatsoever), saying she should “change her attitude toward students of faith and respect them for their beliefs.” Like she wasn’t doing that already.
Since Creamer can’t state the obvious, I will. She’s not the problem. Maybe these kids’ parents should do a better job raising their children not to be assholes to people who don’t share their religious views.
(Image via Shutterstock)