Teacher Who Was Suspended for Writing Critical Comments about Students on Her Blog to Be Reinstated

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Back in February, Professor Turley wrote a blog post titled Teacher Suspended for Writing Critical Comments on Her Personal Blog. Many people who commented on the post sided with Natalie Munroe, the teacher who had been suspended. I did not. I thought the school administration did the right thing after I read some of the critical comments Munroe made about her students and comments she said she’d like to be able to note on her students’ report cards.

Munroe’s blog comments about her students include the following:

• “I hear the trash company is hiring.”
• “I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son.”
• “Rude, beligerent [sic], argumentative f**k.”
• “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”
• “Asked too many questions and took too long to ask them. The bell means it’s time to leave!”

• A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.
• Lazy asshole.
• Two words come to mind: brown AND nose.
• Weirdest kid I’ve ever met.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: In one sketch posted on the blog, an image of a bus tagged “Short Bus” appears under the slogan, “I don’t care if you lick windows, take the special bus or occasionally pee on yourself, you hang in there Sunshine, you’re … special.”

People who felt Munroe had done nothing wrong may be happy to find out that she has been reinstated to her old job. According to her attorney Steven L. Rover, she will be allowed to return to her Central Bucks East High School classroom this fall. She would teach the same classes at the same school. Rovner said, “I personally believe that her talents as a teacher would best be utilized in a different school within the district, however, this is not an option. She is taking a few days to digest this development in what has become an important national first amendment, employment, and education case.”

Having worked as a public school educator for more than thirty years, I can’t imagine that many students would want to have Munroe for a teacher. I would doubt that many parents would want their children in any of her classes. I know that I wouldn’t want my child to have her for a teacher.

I guess we’ll have to wait to see whether Ms. Munroe decides to return to her teaching position at Central Bucks east High School when classes resume in a few weeks.

I welcome comments on this story. I’d like to know what people think.

FYI

From the ACLU: Free Speech Rights of Public School Teachers

Where are we going & why are we in this handbasket  (Natalie Munroe’s new blog)

SOURCES

Teacher Suspended for Blog Posts About Students (NBC Philadelphia)

CB East Teacher Removed After Blogging About Students (Doylestown Patch)

Natalie Munroe Suspended: Worst Insults the Teacher Made About Her Students (AOL News)

Central Bucks East teacher returning after blog dispute (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Natalie Munroe, Pennsylvania Teacher, Reinstated After Disparaging Students On Blog (Huffington Post)

Bucks teacher: Students are ‘rude, disengaged, lazy whiners’ (Philadelphia Inquirer)

44 thoughts on “Teacher Who Was Suspended for Writing Critical Comments about Students on Her Blog to Be Reinstated

  1. Elaine M.,

    This is still my opinion….She should never be allowed to be near children again…But hey….That is why unions get critized….and in this case…. Justifiably so…

  2. while i agree with freedom of speech, her comments went way too far.. If she has that much apathy for her students, she should not be a teacher.. Each student has different needs and needs a different approach and while I know from raising children that they can drive a saint to sin, that is why you shouldn’t become a teacher if you don’t have the patience to handle them….

  3. Elaine,
    while I think her comments were disgusting, she has the right to say them. She did not identify herself and did not name the children, so I can understand why the school board reinstated her. If I recall, it was not done on school time or using school property either. I do think she will have a hard time staying at that school so that may be why the District reinstated her in hopes that she quits on her own.

  4. Elaine,

    Thanks for the follow-up.

    One gets the idea from reading her blog that this woman isn’t going to back down one iota. She may no longer post her true thoughts regarding her students but that is the only thing that will change.

  5. AY,

    What are you talking about … Unions? Her Union didn’t commit the indiscretions, the School Board wouldn’t even talk to her Union lawyer … the Board suspended her pending the outcome of their investigation but changed that suspension to the already agreed upon maternity leave and brought her back under the maternity leave guidelines … those decisions were theirs, not the Unions’ … unless, of course, you don’t believe “Maternity Leave” should be part of a contract between teachers and their school district.

  6. Blouise,

    I think the school system has put the ball in Munroe’s court. It is probably a smart move on the administrators’ part. Now there is no reason for Munroe to sue the school system. Munroe has to be aware of what she’ll probably face should she return to the school where she taught. It will be interesting to see what she does.

  7. Justice is served.

    My wife’s a teacher, I have a credential but do not teach, and we both read Ms. Munroe’s blog. I think Ms. Munroe used poor judgment insofar as she should have taken far greater steps to protect her identity.

    However, as far as I can tell, the majority of people who were offended took offense because the comments hit way too close to home. In short, she said nothing that wasn’t true, and she said nothing that most teachers don’t think. I wish that teachers had the ability to be lot more vocal about the shortcomings of the system that they have to work under, the shortcomings of their students, and most importantly, the shortcomings of the parents of these students. Until that happens and teachers can speak freely without reprisal, we cannot have an honest discussion on how to fix the educational system in this country.

  8. Elaine,

    Exactly. By not having an outcome to the investigation; by opting to go with the previously approved maternity leave, the Board has given her no real cause for action and completely aced out any Union involvement … mythological or otherwise. Her Union lawyer said he thought she should be in another building but he had no input because the Board chose a far more intelligent legal maneuver.

    I suspect her decision will hinge on how badly she needs the paycheck.

  9. I don’t know enough. I read some of the youtube comments and it seems that there might have been a class thing going on. From what I have heard (from wealthy parents and a relative who teaches), the students have a sense of entitlement that cannot be managed well because the parents are always interfering to get what they want. In my experience, it was the admin that did nothing for the students, but this was in a NYC public school, and I never went back after a semester of depression watching students get nothing. My guess is that this will be a temporary fix and that she will leave the school once she knows what to do next–like write a book.

  10. The Moar You Know,

    I spoke out often–sometimes in staff meetings and sometimes at school committee meetings. I spoke to parents when I was concerned about their children’s behavior or lack of effort. There are adult ways of addressing problems in education. Bitching about one’s students and using foul language when writing about them on a blog does not speak well of Munroe’s professionalism. She critcized the attitude of many of her students. I’d say she has quite an attitude problem herself.

  11. Elaine,
    Great story by the way! If Munroe was blogging on school computers on school time and not on her own laptop or blackberry on lunch break, then the school might have had an argument on that issue, but it doesn’t seem to be what they dealt with. I am guessing that her comments may have meant while she was on school grounds. If the school didn’t go through the proper disciplinary procedure, as per the contract, for misuse of school computers and doing private messages on school time, my guess is that the they didn’t want to deal with the contractual procedure, or that there was nothing there.
    She is stupid, but if a person on the job, can’t say what he or she thinks while on her own time(?) without lying or identifying her targets, then we wouldn’t have a First Amendment anymore. As I suggested earlier, I think the situation will take care of itself. If not, the Board may still have the contractual procedures to proceed on if there are no time limit issues and if she did use school computers on school time.

  12. “I’d say she has quite an attitude problem herself.”(Elaine)

    One definitely picks that up from her blog.

  13. I agree with rafflaw–things will sort themselves out. She sounds like Bill Maher or Joan Rivers. Maybe that’s what she should be doing.

  14. Some of her students admitted in interviews that what she said was true but that she shouldn’t have said them. I took that to mean the comments she made about low productivity, drug talk, etc. I think she will be okay and yes she will have a tough time but I have to tell you something, it’s miserable out here–high school, college, you name it–only the science students are working and the administrators are downgrading the humanities to a bit of “global exposure.” She will move on if she’s smart. She can always apologize and have remorse. After all, that’s what this culture expects. If she stays in teaching, she has to move to a place that advances the liberal arts, and that will be hard to find.

  15. I wonder if any of the kids or their parents learned anything from her comments? I assume they didn’t. They were all too busy being outraged that no one remembered that some of what she said was true.

    All this failing forward is going to come back to haunt us.

  16. drf–Some of them I believe will get it. In her interview Munroe said she stood by what she said (and her right to privacy, I assume–no school named, no students–what an outrage to be dug up and exposed), and hopes that all of the uproar will bring about a conversation. I don’t know the school and am not going to look it up, but what I hear from students coming in to the campus where I work is that in h. s. they were tested via scantron for all liberal arts courses. I wonder why? Could it be that many of their teachers without MAs–people who have never done research of their own–can teach only with a text and the accompanying answer sheets? Do they have sufficient content from their own training? I could go on and on. This is a three-way street (if I may): administrators, parents (maybe helicopter) AND their kids, and teachers. I am using a lot of space here– but ok–one of my friends from a very wealthy community when hearing from me that I grade on progress was shocked and thrilled. I have not pursued this point. I know what I mean by it–consistently applied rigor–but I don’t know if my friend meant an easy ride. The work goes to the students, no exceptions. But I do break things in parts and build up to more complex exercises. This is college. Hey, I am doing remedial work, which is fine because the kids are worth it. But what a sad state of affairs.

  17. My wife teaches EBD kids in an elementary school. I know when teachers get together they often exchange stories of kids & parents and warn each other of problems that are coming into their class room next year. While it is usually the parents that come in for the harshest comments the students get it too.

    Comments like this teachers are not all that unusual. Part of it is the frustration that comes from busting you butt trying everything you can think of to reach kids who just don’t give a crap. Just blowing off steam caused by the friction from people who believe education is critical grinding against those who don’t. I have never heard unkind things about the students who are struggling to learn, just those that refuse to.

    Many of these teachers are doing a great job, particularly under the conditions (35+ kids in a room designed for 25) and deserve to vent anonymously like this one did.

  18. If it is possible for me to share your view and to have mine, Frank, I do. I understand the issue of class size–35 in an elementary school class is unspeakably awful and unfair to every justified hope for a creative and responsible pedagogy. The fact that so many of us have commented on this affair and have gone off point on the legal issue speaks to the level of frustration all around. I look forward to seeing how this case plays out next fall and what Munroe and the administration do–not to mention the students, although I think some of them might rally positively. From what I have seen in academic administrations over decades is the marginalizing of dissenters (making a person invisible–self censorship is what they hope for), cutting off needed resources, taking away office space, and so on, all justifiably accounted for, of course. This is not to say that I support what Munroe did. A more creative way would have been to write a controversial book. And I thought the special ed comment was mean spirited but I do not know the context–still, not good. But she’s 30 and she was writing anonymously, and some of the comments were hilarious because the situations they expressed were so easy to visualize.

  19. As a former teacher I have nothing but respect for good teachers and flexible schools, but the fact is that there have always been and always will be kids who hate school. They have less of a responsibility to plow through what is for them a thoroughly unpleasant experience nearly devoid of real learning, than school systems have to adjust their methods.

    Here’s an example of a great school with great administrators and kids who used to hate school until they were allowed to control their own learning process:

    And here are some quotes by famous people about school:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201107/what-einstein-twain-and-forty-eight-other-creative-people-had-say-about-sc

  20. i find this truly disgusting the only thing i find funny in her comments is that the teacher who is teaching her children probably feels the same way about her kids. i als find this disgusting in the fact that some students have been expelled and suspended not to mention the ones not allowed to attend their graduations for doing the same exact thing. so what if she didnt post their names. each and every child in her class must feel she is talking about them. and sorry but considering her attitude i would feel justified in saying. HER PARENTS DID NOT DO A VERY GOOD JOB OF RAISING HER EITHER. since she is an adult at least age wise she is anyway. her attitude suggests that she stopped growing mentally as a teenager.

    i would think all the parents of that district would get together and refuse to have their children enrolled in her class. maybe she’ll have more fun teaching NOTHING AND NO ONE. this is what all the students will remember about her. i bet none of them will credit her with inspiring them to follow their dreams. unless they dream of demeaning children

  21. Central Bucks teacher Munroe suspended for blog posts gets ready to return
    August 04, 2011|By Bill Reed, Inquirer Staff Writer
    http://articles.philly.com/2011-08-04/news/29851025_1_natalie-munroe-english-and-debate-classes-district-officials

    Excerpt:
    Natalie Munroe has the legal right to teach in the Central Bucks School District and to continue blogging, district officials said Wednesday, but they don’t know how many students the author of “crass and cruel” posts will have when classes start Aug. 29.

    “While something may be legally right, it may not be ethically or morally right,” Central Bucks High School East principal Abe Lucabaugh said. District officials spoke about the matter for the first time since the English teacher’s reinstatement became public last week. She had been suspended in February after blogging about her students.

    “The decision to do the right thing does not rest with the . . . district,” he said. “Mrs. Munroe is afforded legal employment rights. The decision to do the right thing lies in the hands of the person whose very hands created this controversy, Mrs. Munroe.”

    Superintendent N. Robert Laws said, “We’re not here to ask her to resign. We’re reacting to the situation that she created. . . . We’re working within the legal parameters.”

    Paul Faulkner, the school board’s president, said it was “not in the best interest” of the district’s 95,000 taxpayers to dismiss Munroe and face a costly legal fight.

    In an unusual move reserved for “when egregious or unique factors are in play,” the district is allowing students to opt out of Munroe’s 11th-grade English and debate classes at Central Bucks East, Lucabaugh said.

    About 60 students have made such requests, and more are expected to do so through Aug. 19, when schedules will be available, Lucabaugh said. “I suspect this is only just the beginning.”

    Not all 60 students had been assigned to Munroe, who typically would have 90 students in the three classes, he said. Laws would not describe “backup plans” if Munroe has too few students to conduct the classes.

    If Munroe does have classes, they will be monitored “very closely,” Lucabaugh said. “I’ll have many conversations with Mrs. Munroe before she goes in the classroom. I don’t know what those conversations will sound like just yet.”

    He said he also would talk with Munroe’s students: “They will be told they are expected to be respectful. This can’t become . . . a distraction.”

    Munroe’s blog posts about students, faculty, and administrators that led to her suspension in February “were unprofessional, disrespectful and disturbing, particularly coming from the heart of an educator,” Lucabaugh said in a statement. “Moreover, and most importantly, they were crass and cruel.”

    The principal provided a Jan. 21, 2010, blog post because “the public did not have full access to the full blog and the darker, more profane comments and images about students, parents and coworkers that it contained. . . .. Phrases like ‘I hate your kid,’ ‘Don’t you know how to raise kids?’ . . . and ‘frightfully dim’ evoke shock and hurt.”

    The district is returning Munroe to the school she wrote about because “relocating the teacher would be both irresponsible and further disruptive,” Lucabaugh said. “All parties will be best served by containing the issue and monitoring the known environment at her current school. We will not condone shifting a toxic situation to another building and creating a maelstrom there.”

  22. Elaine,
    Isn’t it immoral for the principal and the board to holding a press conference and call the teacher immoral after they admitted that she didn’t do anything illegal? It sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. they are trying to force her out because they don’t have legal grounds to dismiss her.

  23. Elaine, if I ever had mixed feelings about a free speech subject, this is it. The woman is a moral midget, not because of what she thought, but because she published it on line. If I had a kid attending that school, I would have to think long and hard before letting my child anywhere near that woman. She may be one of those people who are said to be book smart, but she does not seem to have a lick of common sense.

  24. raff, I agree with you, but they appear to have been backed into a corner. If they kept it confidential and said nothing, they would have been pilloried. And they may be pilloried because they DID say something. No win situation all around.

  25. OS,
    I agree that the teacher is a bad one, but she had the right to do what she did. If the Board thought they had the ability to get rid of her, they would have done it. I think they put themselves in that corner.

  26. Sometimes school administrators shoot first and think later. They try to figure out how they shot off their own big toe.

    We have had some of that going on around here. Sometimes I think these folks never took eighth grade civics.

  27. rafflaw,

    I guess I’d respond by saying the following: Just because something is legal it doesn’t necessarily means it’s a good thing or the right thing to do. That teacher put the school system in a bind. Parents and students were upset by what Munroe had done–and they let school administrators and members of the school board know how they felt. A decision was made by the powers that be to allow Munroe to retain her teaching position because they feared a costly legal fight. I can’t say I blame them.

    Would you want a child of yours to have a teacher like Ms. Munroe? I wouldn’t. She had a right to write what she did about her students. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t face any consequences. If you were a school administrator or a member of the school board would you defend her behavior or speak out against what she had done in public?

  28. Elaine,
    She had the right to say what she did. Would I have done that, no. Would I be happy that my child had to have her as a teacher, no. But if the Board wanted to try to solve the problem, it didn’t help its cause by having the press conference. They should have kept the lid on tight. The board’s job is not to malign her statements at a public forum. Their job is to do something about it or try to make things better. They are unable or unwilling to fire her, so they are trying to force her out by humiliating her. That won’t work and it doesn’t help the school climate.
    How is the Grandaughter doing? We had our two boys over yesterday for an all day baby sitting exercise. It was great fun, but exhausting!

  29. rafflaw,

    There was no way the school system could have kept the lid on tight in a case like this. Teachers with bad reputations cause real headaches for school administrators. I’d say it was Munroe who polluted the school climate. I believe about sixty parents had already requested that their children not be placed in any of her classes. I don’t know how the school board could have solved the problem.

    Julia Anna is doing just fine. She is SOOOOO cute. I’ve spent a lot of time with her since she arrived home yesterday. I’ve also brought lots of food to the happy–but tired–parents…as did other family members.

    I hope I’ll have the stamina to babysit for Julia three days a week when my daughter returns to work.

  30. This is the saddest excuse that can be used to maintain ones job….She is entrusted to educate the children…Maybe she is…and is teaching them that not all people in authority can be trusted….and those that are suppose to appear to have your best interest at heart will stab you in the back if they can….

    FWIW, I believe that she violated some part of the “morality” clause in her contract….Just because she did this “Off” of school property saves her? Excuse me….How many times have children been expelled or criminally charged for activities that did not occur on school property or during school hours…This woman is an offense to the education community…..if she hooked in Nevada and word got out…would she keep her job? I think not….

    Free Speech is one thing…Teaching is another….If you beg to differ do so…but think about the curriculum that the school boards mandate for the teachers to teach….Oh that is right…ever since, W’s failed NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, teachers don’t teach…they only test….and then cheat for the district if the school needs numbers to pass that evil mandate….I forgot….

  31. AY,

    “Just because she did this ‘Off’ of school property saves her?”

    There was at least one time when Munroe blogged while she was at school.

    The school system doesn’t want her back–but they fear a costly lawsuit. I don’t know whether she’d win in court or not. What do you think?

    *****
    I found the following at the ACLU website:

    Free Speech Rights of Public School Teachers

    Speech Outside of School

    Teachers do not forfeit the right to comment publicly on matters of public importance simply because they accept a public school teaching position. Teachers cannot be fired or disciplined for statements about matters of public importance unless it can be demonstrated that the teacher’s speech created a substantial adverse impact on school functioning. A teacher’s off-campus statements regarding the war or participation in an off-campus political demonstration are not acceptable bases for job discipline or termination.

    http://www.aclu-wa.org/news/free-speech-rights-public-school-teachers

    *****

    I’d say what Munroe wrote did create an adverse impact on school functioning. I don’t know if I’d describe what she wrote, however, as a matter of public importance.

  32. Elaine,

    I’d bet that 90% of the people with children would support her dismissal….If I was on the school board etc I’d make sure of it….That would be a promise….In school settings in the long run it ain’t cheaper to keep er…

  33. AY,

    I wonder how many of Munroe’s colleagues would like to see her gone. Problem teachers can cause problems for their colleagues because parents don’t want their children in the problem teacher’s class/classes. That means that other teachers often end up with larger classes.

  34. Otteray,

    Thanks for the link. I just found this:

    Blogging teacher might not have anyone to teach
    http://www.phillyburbs.com/my_town/doylestown/blogging-teacher-might-not-have-anyone-to-teach/article_73622262-6ec2-52ce-92f5-350cb5458bb9.html

    Excerpt:
    Munroe wrote multiple posts in the year that followed in which she talked about her own boredom and her desire to “sit this one out.” She described her students as “lazy,” “rat-like,” “frightfully dim,” “whiny, simpering grade-grubbers” and a variety of curse words. She said she wished she could tell parents, “I hate your kid.”

    She also posted an image of a school bus with the comment, “I don’t care if you lick windows, take the special bus or occasionally pee on yourself … you hang in there sunshine. You’re friggin’ special.”

    Munroe did not name students in any of the posts reviewed by the newspaper.

    Munroe deleted her blog the day she was suspended, but restarted it — without the controversial posts — a few days later. She said she stood by what she wrote in her old blog posts. Her new blog had 692 followers at press time.

    Munroe was on maternity leave following her suspension; her maternity leave ends this month.

    At the time Munroe was suspended, administrators said they were investigating what Munroe wrote on the blog and how much she wrote while she was at work and using school computers. Laws declined to say Wednesday morning whether the district’s investigation revealed that Munroe had violated school policy by blogging on school computers or school time.

    Laws also said at the time Munroe was suspended that her comments were “very egregious” and “certainly could result in termination.”

    Munroe’s attorney then threatened to file a First Amendment law suit against the district if it fired Munroe.

    Administrators announced their intent to allow Munroe to return to her classroom at CB East earlier this month. They said they were allowing Munroe to return because she has a “legal right” to do so.

    Laws said the district will accept requests to withdraw from Munroe’s classes even after school starts, and the district will honor every one.

    Munroe still is blogging at http://www.nataliemunroe.com, though she has said little on the site in the past few weeks. Her last post was a note of thanks to a newspaper columnist who supported her.

    District officials are in the process of drafting policies to address the use of social media by staff; Laws said he will bring those policies to the board in September.

  35. I think a lot of people need to remove the stick from their butt. Oh, did that offend you? GOOD! When is this society going to stop worrying about offending people who specifically look for things to be offended by? As long as this mentality continues the TRUTH will be imposible to tell, hear and justify. Whiney-assed adults.

  36. The issue I have with her conduct is that she is a bully, she is insulting, she has no respect for children (a fatal flaw in a teacher because respect for your students is a necessary prerequisite to being able to teach them) and she is outright abusive. How is it that a person goes to jail for five years for setting up an internet date with a fictional 13-year-old BECAUSE THE INTERNET IS A PUBLIC PLACE WHERE TALK EQUALS ACTION yet a person displaying contempt, disdain and outright hatred for children WHO CAN READ HER WORDS AND SUFFER FROM THEM is not guilty of a crime because she has First Amendment rights? I’d wish the school fired her and took on the union in that instance saying, “If you want to protect your people, protect them FROM people like her, not HER.” Carve out an exception meant to show that you can’t publicly humiliate children and continue to exert control over their lives. Crazy B^tch.

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