Just a week after a Chicago teacher made fun of a little girl's hairstyle online, another teacher in New Jersey has gotten in trouble for posting something inappropriate on Facebook, and having a generally horrible attitude about her students.
According to NBC New York, Jennifer O'Brien, a first-grade teacher at P.S. 21 in Paterson, commented on Facebook that the children in her class are "future criminals" and she feels like a "warden." It's disturbing enough that O'Brien saw the six-year-olds in her class as merely future delinquents, but to make matters worse parents were able to see what she wrote on her profile.
Click to viewThe school district's response has made parents even angrier. O'Brien, whose name was witheld by the school but released by parents, was put on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. Several parents told WPIX that they saw this as O'Brien getting a paid vacation for insulting their children.
When the New York Times spoke to O'Brien's lawyer, Nancy Oxfeld, she said her client had no comment, but added that she made the remark to her friends (but apparently didn't have her page locked down). Oxfeld said:
"My feeling is that if you're concerned about children, you're concerned about what goes on in the classroom, not about policing your employee's private comments to others."
Paterson Board of Education President Thomas Best responded that O'Brien's comments were "disheartening and unacceptable." He added that it's not the first time he heard the sentiment in the schools. "Overall we have a good teaching force, but I've heard comments like this before," said Best. "It's not on Facebook, but a lot of times the kids are referred to as 'animals.'"
According to the Times, Paterson is one of the state's "most troubled" school systems, and it was taken over by the state in 1991 due to fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance. Best said that several hundred teachers were recently laid off, and some faculty with seniority kept their jobs by moving to different positions. O'Brien had been a tenured technology coordinator who was moved to being a first-grade teacher.
Unfortunately "teacher continues to do a great job" doesn't make a good headline, so there are dozens of terrible stories for every article about a teacher who helps her students evacuate before the tsunami hit Japan. As someone whose mother is a teacher, and who knows at least half a dozen recent graduates who are desperate to find a teaching job, stories like these are particularly infuriating. It's horrible to hear about an adult disrespecting the children in her care, but it also casts a bad light on teachers, who for the most part, got into the profession because they want to help children succeed. But that's not news — that's their job, and they do it every single day.
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