Rhode Island Teachers Fired After Insulting Students Online

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Three teachers at a preparatory school in Rhode Island have been fired after it was discovered they were referring to their students as “idiots” in a private online chat session.

The Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy teachers, who have not been identified, were using a program called “Slack,” a corporate internal-communications app that claims to be a better, easier to use version of email.

Earlier in the week, 18 pages of their private conversation on Slack were leaked to staff and students at the school in a mass email which included a link to a Google document sent using one of the teacher’s hacked email accounts.  Students were referenced in many of the messages and as individuals were called “dumb,” “idiotic,” and “toxic.”  One even called a student who has difficulty spelling a “[expletive] idiot.”

The student that term is referencing is a 16-year-old at the school, who, according to the Slack message, spelled the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ name “Tonahese quotes.”

After seeing the messages written about her, the student said she was extremely upset and that they had shaken her confidence.  The teen had previously gone to the teacher for help with her spelling, saying that he was not mean at all to her and that she had believed that she had a personal relationship with him, writes James Wilkinson for The Daily Mail.

Other messages took things a step further, as Jeremy Chiappetta, executive director of Blackstone Valley Prep, noted, “I want to be crystal clear, many of the comments written are deeply disturbing and offensive,” in an open letter written in response to the incident.

One example found a teacher stating that he wished they were allowed to hit the students, and another replying that teachers in Arizona are allowed to do just that.  He goes on to suggest the first teacher move there and open his own charter school.

A separate instance found teachers directly mocking and insulting both the students and their parents, as one teacher wrote that they hoped one parent’s child failed all their classes.

“On Monday 20 June, senior leadership at Blackstone Valley Prep learned that disrespectful and disparaging written comments about students and families were allegedly written by some of our high-school staff. We immediately launched a full internal investigation which included interviewing the alleged teachers involved,” said Chiapetta.

The letter went on to say that the school has fired the three teachers involved in the scandal after the investigation uncovered that the allegations brought against them had in fact been true.  He added that the trust parents have placed in the school and teachers has been violated.

According to The Washington Post, the teachers resigned “in disgrace.”

Chris Matyszczyk, writing for CNet, discusses the issue of teacher privacy and at what point does that stop being relevant.  He mentions a first-grade teacher in New Jersey who was suspended in 2011 after it was found that she had called her students “future criminals” on Facebook, bringing into question the difference between co-workers having a discussion over drinks in comparison to using technology to make such comments.

Matyszczyk concludes by suggesting that the teachers should have been more careful with their comments because they were using school-sponsored software.