PANAMA CITY, Fla. – An atheist middle school teacher’s online rant about her students recently sparked both a district investigation and angry complaints from parents.
Merritt Brown Middle School teacher Susan Creamer took to the Atheists of Bay County Facebook page to solicit advice about how to deal with the religious “cretins” in her class, putting her job in Bay District Schools on the line, the Daily News reports.
“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,” Creamer wrote.
“Every time any child sneezes, they loudly say ‘God bless you!’ and look in my direction. I have complained twice to my principal – one last month and once today,” she continued. “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,” Creamer wrote. “I don’t feel like talking with the parents will stop the inappropriate behaviors because, for all I know, the parents are encouraging them. Any suggestions?”
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?”
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Bay District Schools spokeswoman Karen Tucker told the Daily News school policy prohibits teachers from criticizing students in person or online. Creamer’s comments were posted to a closed page, but were captured by a screenshot that was distributed among students, parents and others in the district.
Tucker said district officials launched an investigation into the Creamer’s post and other comments on Facebook because the district policy applies regardless of whether comments are posted to open or closed pages.
“I don’t think it matters (if the page is private or not), because eventually someone else is going to see it posted, which is what happened,” Tucker said. “People were re-posting. If you said things on there, which she did, about students, no, I don’t think it matters.”
The district also issued a formal statement to WJHG.
“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,” the statement read. “We do not condone the use of disparaging comments about our students in any form, on any social media platform or in any school.”
The district’s policy manual clearly states “the district believes employees should separate personal and professional relationships in online communities and platforms,” the news site reports.
WJHG also pointed out that Dictionary.com defines cretin as “a stupid, obtuse, or mentally defective person.”