October 19, 2020

Trio of Alabama teachers suspended over leaked text messages

An Alabama school board voted to discipline three teachers accused of sharing offensive text messages about students that were later leaked online.

The Houston County School Board voted Wednesday night to approve 10-day, unpaid suspensions for three teachers from Ashford High School, news outlets reported. Some in the audience complained that the punishment wasn’t severe enough.

As many as six teachers were suspended with pay earlier after a student used social media to post leaked text messages that included a racial slur and comments about students’ sex lives and intelligence. The suspensions for three teachers followed an investigation by school officials.

The Dothan Eagle reported that Superintendent David Sewell recommended the punishment for Tambria McCardle, Kim Worsham and Julee Lasseter, plus systemwide diversity training early next year.

Community members filled the board’s meeting room, and many said the punishment wasn’t stiff enough.

“It was a private conversation, but it was made public. For teachers, adults, to say something like this, you can’t turn a blind eye,” said Franklin Jones, president of the Dothan chapter of the NAACP. “To say it wasn’t serious enough of a violation to terminate them is wrong.”

Erica Williams, whose child’s pregnancy was discussed in the teachers’ texts, said she was disappointed in the board’s decision.

“I thought they’d be fired,” she said. “They need to be transferred or something.”

Sewell said he sought the legal advice from the board’s attorney and other education lawyers, and none recommended firing the teachers.

The superintendent declined comment on whether the student who posted the leaked teachers’ messages was disciplined, but the sheriff’s office said no charges were planned.