Six teachers at Enrico Fermi 17 School in Rochester are on leave after students discovered a series of text messages among them using vulgar slurs to describe the children and their parents and wishing a girl ‘beat the (expletive) ” of another.
Another message suggested sending an automated phone call to “90% of children” and their families that would say, “I’m calling to remind you that you are a (expletive) parent and your child is a (expletive) like you. . Thanks.”
Another said: ‘Dave said I should take my clothes off in the garage and put them in a bag and put them in the hot dryer then get a job at Penfield.’ Two teachers responded with a laugh.
Jennifer Lopez, the mother of one of the students named in the posts, said the students discovered the posts on May 21 when one of the teachers in question allowed them to use her phone to make a video. They saw the group text notification pop up and recognized a classmate’s name.
Lopez said there was a large group meeting on May 25 with children, parents, teachers, and school and union officials in attendance. She said the teachers acknowledged writing the texts and apologized.
“I said to them, ‘I don’t think you’re sorry; I think you’re sorry you got caught,'” Lopez said Friday.
She added: “I understand that teenagers can put you under your skin a bit. But these posts – you’ve grown up. You’re supposed to be someone they can trust.”
The students mentioned in the posts are eighth graders, meaning they are in their final 17 weeks of school attendance before heading to high school in the fall.
“I am horrified by the racist and demeaning references and language used to describe children…our children!” Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small wrote in a message to staff. “Staff members have been furloughed and the District will use all forms of discipline available until termination.”
Myers-Small, visibly distressed, elaborated on her remarks during a press conference on Friday afternoon. On the one hand, she dismissed the idea that how the students accessed the phone in any way outweighed the importance of the content of the messages.
“The event happened, and it worries me,” she said.
The names of five teachers are visible in the screenshots of the text messages; Myers-Small confirmed they were five of the six suspended. They are: Abby Bardanis, Jorge Degro, Samantha DiNoto, Derek Kelly and Alicia Renner. The sixth name has not yet been released.
This is the second time this month that RCSD teachers have been caught belittling or accused of belittling their students. Patrick Rausch, professor at the School of Artsis on leave after allegedly forcing black children to pick cotton and taunting them for not being able to escape the chains.
School board vice president Beatriz LeBron said she wants the teachers at School 17 fired.
“If you don’t want to work with our children, no one is forcing you to work with our children,” she said. “There are other people who want to work with our children.”
“Rochester teachers are not racist”
Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said, “Everyone, and especially students, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
At the same time, he said it was important to allow for due process and dismissed the idea that both situations indicate racism on behalf of the faculty, which is overwhelmingly white in a 90% non-white district.
“I know Rochester teachers are not racist, quite the contrary,” he said. “Teachers choose to teach at CSD by choice. … When we have information such as what emerges from School 17 or SOTA, I think everyone should follow due process and not prejudge and jump to conclusions .”
The district has taken steps in recent years to add anti-racism and culturally appropriate professional development and materials, but has been pushed back by some teachers who think the word racism itself is accusatory.
“If you frame it as anti-racism, they won’t come; even when they come, they won’t come,” Urbanski said in 2018. “But if you frame it as teachers needing to know their student and recognize that there is implicit bias and that is a factor and they have to do something about it, they will come.”
Myers-Small said Friday that about 700 of the district’s 5,600 employees have completed anti-racism training aligned with newly adopted state standards, but others have completed other similar professional development programs in the past. .
Contact editor Justin Murphy at [email protected]
Editor’s note: A sentence in this story has been edited from first publication to clarify the status of the allegations against RCSD teachers.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: RCSD teachers furloughed after offensive text messages discovered