Friday, November 22, 2019
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Balto. teacher fired for using the N-word in class

An eighth-grade science teacher at Harlem Park Middle School was fired today after a cellphone video surfaced of her calling a student by the N-word, Tim Tooten at WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate) reports.

Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School (via Twitter)

The white teacher at this Baltimore City school can be heard saying, “You’re idiots … You are going to be a bunch of punk-ass n—s who … get shot,” at about the 1-minute mark in the video, which had been viewed more than 3.8 million times as of 7 PM Thursday:

WJZ-TV (CBS affiliate) posted a brief response from Baltimore City Schools, describing their response to the incident, which actually occurred on Tuesday:

ABC-2 (WMAR-TV) confirmed that the teacher, who was not named, since this is a personnel matter, was terminated by Baltimore City Schools.

At a press conference this afternoon, schools CEO Dr Sonja Santelises said she hadn’t spoken to the teacher directly. “This is not a case of just a struggling teacher or a teacher working to manage and regain right order within the classroom. It is the boundary that was crossed in the attempt to maintain order,” WMAR-TV quoted her as saying.

Brandon Scott, a city councilman representing the 2nd District, tweeted that the action taken by the school district was quick and appropriate.

Students in the video do not appear particularly disruptive, but we don’t know what was happening prior to the beginning of the footage or why the student decided to begin recording the audio and video.

The teacher was in her second year as part of the Baltimore City Teaching Residency, an alternative certification program for teachers in the city’s schools. For the first half of their first year, BCTR teachers have a mentor in their classrooms, the Baltimore Sun reported. Presumably, this mentorship program helps teachers, who may have good content knowledge, such as science in this case, learn to manage classrooms appropriately.

Michael Linsin writes on the Smart Classroom Management blog that handling several students who are being disruptive can be challenging but that the situation comes down to classroom management, not disciplining individual students.

One of the most common mistakes teachers make is trying to handle difficult students as distinct entities, separate from the class as a whole. … The only way to fix it is to start over from the beginning.

Establish sharply defined, non-negotiable boundaries of behavior for all students that are designed to protect your freedom to teach and your students’ freedom to learn.

Create a clear, no-nonsense classroom management plan that covers every possible misbehavior. Teach, model, and practice it so there are no misunderstandings or excuses not to follow it.

In any case, calling students punks or worse is never appropriate. That kind of action signals a loss of control and can make matters worse on the day students are acting up and down the road, when the misbehavior could even get worse.

UPDATE Dec. 5 — An op-ed in the Baltimore Sun suggests that if we look beyond the racial epithet, we will see this teacher as “more so hurt than anything because she couldn’t get the kids to learn, and she couldn’t get them to listen.” The mom who posted the video initially says the teacher was “a woman who wanted to teach these kids because she’s passionate about her job.” I admire this mom’s compassion for a teacher working at a tough school.
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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