Over the last few days, we saw the video and the subsequent fallout of a pool party that turned into a racial flash point in McKinney, Texas. Following this, we have seen a police officer resign over his rough treatment of a teenage girl and for pulling a gun on unarmed kids. Yesterday, we also saw a person at the center of all this, Tracey Carver-Allbritton, suspended from her job after video surfaced of her punching a teenage girl in the back of her head in the fight that precipitated this whole incident.
Against this backdrop, people are taking to social media to weigh in and let their feelings be known. However, it seems that someone always takes things too far. Karen Fitzgibbons, a teacher at Bennett Elementary School in the Freship School District in Texas posted this on her Facebook page:
“I’m going to just go ahead and say it … the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.’ I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin….GO! #imnotracist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasatagedcommunity”
For a minute, we are going to ignore the gross generalizations about all black people, the assumptions that black people are uneducated and the fact that a number of the black kids at the party lived in that gated community and had passes to the pool.
Did she just bring up the prospect of racially-segregating people, again?
The teacher took down the post the next day and says that she has apologized to the “appropriate people”, without saying who these people might be.
Frenship district officials have declined to state what actions they plan to take but, a spokesperson for the district stated “Matters such as this are taken very seriously regarding our employees’ social media use. That’s the whole reason we have policies and procedures in place.”
The district’s policy states that what an employee posts on social media is held to the same standard as all their other public conduct. The policy also mentions conduct on Facebook, as well as a few other social media sites, by name. Penalties for violations of these standards go up to and include termination of employment.
It appears that this post has cost Karen Fitzgibbons her job. Earlier today, she issued an apology:
First, to anyone, of any race, that I have offended, I sincerely apologize. That was not my intent. I let my emotions get the best of me, and instead of taking a deep breath, vented in an inappropriate way. I am truly sorry. I don’t want my comments to reflect poorly on my district or campus, as the words came from me, not them. Frenship and Bennett are amazing places full of people (teachers, administrators, custodial staff, cafeteria staff, parents, and others) who love, care about, and go the extra mile for all students, regardless of race. As a teacher and lifelong educator, I strive to do the same. I always tell my students that once they are my student, they will always be my child. As an educator, I do teach my students about treating all people fairly and with dignity. I regret that my words are now calling that into question. I can, and will, use this situation as a real world example of how emotions and words can cause hurt to others. I am ashamed of my post. As I look back and reflect, I see how hurtful those words sounded. It is my hope that my sincere apology will be accepted.
This apology, however, was not enough to save her job. After relieving her of her duties, the following statement was released:
“On Wednesday afternoon, Frenship Independent School District was made aware of a statement posted on a Facebook page by a Frenship ISD employee earlier this week.
Frenship ISD is deeply disappointed in the thoughtlessness conveyed by this employee’s post. We find these statements to be extremely offensive, insensitive, and disrespectful to our Frenship community and citizens everywhere. These comments in no way represent the educational environment we have created for our students.
The employee whose account is responsible for the post will be relieved of her teaching duties at Frenship ISD.
We hold our employees responsible for their public conduct even when they are not on active duty as district employees. Employees are held to the same professional standards in their public use of electronic media as they are for any other public conduct. This recent conduct was unacceptable.
Frenship ISD hopes communities, parents and students understand that these remarks do not reflect the views of our district, teachers and staff.”