Teachers are people too, and sometimes they just need to vent. One teacher in Johns Creek, Georgia, learned the hard way that there is a right and a wrong way to blow off steam after she was forced to resign this week over Facebook posts that mocked a learning disabled student.
Jennifer Lynch had a right to be frustrated: A student (presumably) on a 504 plan was allowed an extra hour to take his tests during finals week, and he opted to take all six at once the Friday before winter break, two hours after school had already let out for the holiday. That means the student was there for five and a half hours later than the other kids, and the Latin teacher had to stay with him.
Who wouldn’t be frustrated by that?
But instead of venting privately to friends and family over the break, Jennifer Lynch reportedly updated her entire group of Facebook friends — some of whom include her students, if the comments on the 11Alive piece that originally reported the incident are to believed — in real time with a series of posts and comments rife with mockery and profanity. The posts, now deleted, include screeds like this one:
“He has some [expletive] disorder — one of those ‘we don’t know what is his disorder is and we don’t want him to be labeled so we’re not going to find out, but we want academic accommodations anyway’ disorder.”
This is wrong. It’s wrong on a number of levels, but what we mean is that it’s almost certainly factually inaccurate. If this student has accommodations, it likely means he has a 504 plan or IEP place, each of which do typically require a diagnosis of a learning disorder or disability, something this teacher has graciously referred to as a label.
That she doesn’t know what it is doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means no one saw fit to run the personal details by her, though looking back now, it’s an absolute mystery why not.
What most parents of students with a learning disorder or disability will tell you is that the most heartbreaking comment this teacher made, though, is this one:
“On the way out, he says, ‘…isn’t it funny? I’ll be the last student to walk through the doors of JCHS in 2015?’
No. That’s not funny. That’s tragic. Your life is tragic. Everything about you is tragic. You’re Romeo and Juliet. I want to be sad for you, but at the end of the day, we’re all better now that you’re not around.”
It’s hard to imagine someone saying that about your kid. It’s hard to imagine his peers potentially seeing it. It’s hard to envision scores of people “liking” that clever little tantrum. But for one kid, that’s exactly what happened. Happy holidays!
Needless to say, the school took a pretty dim view of this shocking display of horrible judgment as well and sort of fired Lynch when school reconvened after the break. We say “sort of” because Lynch was allowed to resign, according to a statement from Fulton County Schools.
This isn’t just about keeping your Facebook private, though it serves as an excellent reminder to do so, especially if you’re a teacher or other public-facing authority figure. It’s about not allowing someone who is outspoken about being glad that a disabled student is “not around” to go on teaching that disabled student.
“We are appalled at the social media posts and the disrespect shown to a student. Ms. Lynch met with our Human Resources Division yesterday (the first day back for teachers) where she was notified that this behavior did not meet the standard of professionalism expected of all Fulton County teachers. She decided to resign her position and is no longer employed by Fulton County Schools.”
Maybe Fulton County can find someone who values the education of all students and not just the typically developing ones to take her place.