A New Jersey teacher has been suspended over calling her mostly Black and Latino students “future criminals” on Facebook.
Jennifer O’Brien, a veteran teacher, wrote on her Facebook page, “i’m not a teacher — i’m a warden for future criminals.” Hours later she followed the comment with, “They had a scared straight program in school — why couldn’t i bring 1st graders?”
The comment sparked anger and outrage among members of the community that say the comments were racist and inappropriate. In response to the public outcry, the Paterson School Board suspended O’Brien without pay and filed charges to revoke her tenure for unprofessional conduct.
Among the outraged is the Paterson branch of the NAACP whose president, Rev. Kenneth Clayton, testified against O’Brien during hearings to revoke her tenure.
According to NorthJersey.com, Clayton said that O’Brien’s comment “helps us realize again that racism has not been erased from our country … I know that children can be testy and tedious and all those things, but to say in first grade there that you’re a warden for them, that’s reprehensible … if a teacher or any adult leader could look at children like that in the first grade and think that, then the children are doomed.”
O’Brien maintained that she had no racial motive, but was simply frustrated after a day with the unruly class got the best of her. O’Brien says she had recently been hit by one of the students and the students are frequently hitting each other.
“I was speaking out of frustration to their behavior, just that build up of ‘I don’t know what else to do,’ and I’m actually scared for their futures, for some of them,” O’Brien told the administrative law judge, according to NorthJersey.com. “If you’re hitting your teacher at six or seven years old, that’s not a good path.”
O’Brien is not the first teacher to be in trouble over inappropriate Facebook comments. New York teacher Christine Rubino found herself in hot water when she expressed her frustration using racist and insensitive comments following the drowning death of a child.
New York Magazine writes:
The day after a 12-year-old Harlem school girl drowned on a class trip to the beach, Rubino wrote, "After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class. I hate their guts." When a friend commented, "Wouldn’t you throw a life jacket to little Kwami?" Rubino replied, "No, I wouldn’t for a million dollars."