Last week, a first-grade teach in Patterson, New Jersey was suspended for calling her six and seven-year-old students “future criminals” on her Facebook page.

The teacher, Jennifer O’Brien, was suspended with pay until the school and the district completes an investigation into her conduct.

The comments first came to light because several parents saw them on her Facebook page and complained to Darlene Morris, an advocate for the school’s parents. O’Brien, who is a former technology coordinator, recently returned to the classroom due to district budget cuts and layoffs.

While some may brush O’Brien’s comments off as a teacher just blowing off steam, Darlene Morris is disturbed, and worries about the effects O’Brien’s attitude may have had on her students.

“If people show that much disdain for their jobs they should be removed from the classroom regardless of tenure,” Morris said.

Although it is unclear if the teacher was being serious about her students or just exaggerating like many folks do on Facebook, it is clear that free speech has its limits.

Many of the parents see O’Brien’s suspension—with pay—as a slap in the face and refuse to allow their children return to the school if she is reinstated.

“I can’t believe she says something like that, for the world to see,  and she’s now on a paid vacation,” said a parent at the school whose son is in the teacher’s class.

No matter how frustrated and fed up you are—and believe me, teaching can stress you completely out  (I should know, I teach middle school)—taking your negative thoughts public is rarely a good look. No matter how much my students frustrate and enrage me at times, I’ve never stooped to calling them stupid, animals, or “future criminals” (but believe me, I’ve heard those things and more uttered by many teachers).

With so many kids struggling to engage with an educational system that is at times very hostile toward them, O’Brien’s comments highlight the contentious relationship between some teachers and students that prevent many kids from achieving success.

What do you think? Should the teacher be fired or should she be allowed to openly express her feelings about her students on her own time? Sound off!


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