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Teacher compares student to 'orangutan' on Facebook, could lose license

Reuters / file / Today
A Florida teacher who made derogatory remarks about one of her students on Facebook could lose her teaching license.

A teacher who got on Facebook and likened one of her students to an orangutan could wind up losing her teaching license for the derogatory comments she made on the social network.

An elementary school teacher in Manatee County, FL, posted the following remark — which was shared with a local TV station, Bay News 9 by the mother of the student:

"I'm fairly convinced that one of my students may be the evolutionary link between orangutans and humans."

The comment got seven "likes" and some responses, including some from other teachers. Said one: "Please tell me who you are talking about.  This made me laugh out loud."

"W.W. Does that help?" replied the teacher who posted the original comment.

The teacher — who "has a good record within our district," Manatee County school district spokeswoman Margi Nanney told TODAY.com — was verbally disciplined, along with some other teachers who participated in the Facebook conversation. The offending teacher also immediately deleted the Facebook posting and comments.

The principal at G.D. Rogers Elementary School in Bradenton, one of 34 elementary schools in the district, has referred the matter to the state Department of Education's Office of Professional Practices, which will investigate the case, and has the power to revoke the teacher's license.

Nanney said the principal also spoke with the mother of the child who was being made fun of on Facebook.

The child's mother, Lisa Wade, said she is "disgusted with how they talked about my child. It hurts." Wade made the comments to the TV station after sharing the Facebook posts with the news station.

"I send my child to school trusting them to teach him," she said. "Not to talk about him."

A representative of the NAACP told the TV station said that the postings' racial undertones were clear (the student is not white) and that not only should the teacher be disciplined and retrained, but that a social media policy "with enough teeth in it to keep this type of thing from happening" again is needed.

Nanney said she doesn't believe the teacher's comments were racially motivated. "I think she just made a poor judgment call in her choice of words," she said.

While the district has a social media policy in the works, it is not yet approved by the school board. But, Nanney said, the code of ethics for Florida teachers basically says "you never want to say anything that's going to harm, or have a negative impact, on the people that you're working with — and the students are our most important customers.

"We're just very sorry that this happened; it's very disheartening."

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