Westwood Heights teacher accused of making racist and homophobic remarks
Investigation under way into allegations involving alternative high school English teacher, who is the superintendent’s wife
MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJRT) - A teacher in the Westwood Heights school district is under investigation for allegedly making racist and homophobic remarks in the school building and on social media.
ABC12 uncovered a document from the principal of West Academy, which is the alternative high school in Westwood Heights schools in Mt. Morris Township. The principal says an anonymous email prompted the investigation into the teacher’s alleged remarks.
Two teachers who confirm the complaint say their colleague’s behavior has made Academy West an uncomfortable environment for students and fellow staff members over the past three years.
“We want our students to walk into our building and feel like it’s a home environment and that they’re comfortable,” said the teachers, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.
The teacher under investigation is the English teacher at Academy West. A recent email from the school shows she’s under investigation for homophobic and racist remarks.
“To be honest, shock more than anything else, disappointment. This is not what you expect, especially being an alternative building,” the fellow teachers say. “Sometimes that’s a rocky start for a student. So the last thing you want to do is hinder anything and put a barrier in front of their education.”
The two teachers shared multiple social media posts and comments by their coworker, which they consider intolerant, homophobic, racist and offensive. One post was an article shared about a member of the LGBTQ community, in which the teacher under investigation comments saying, “This whole non-binary stuff is a sickness.”
She also adds, “Transgender life is sick and perverted. These poor mixed-up kids.”
“We do have quite a few students and I know we have one staff member who is openly gay,” the fellow teachers say. “So we always want those students and our staff to feel comfortable being who they are.”
The English teacher also appears to take issue with students kneeling during the National Anthem. In several comments on a Facebook post cheering on a teacher who did just that, a post under the teacher’s profile calls the action “despicable” and adds that, “Kneeling for the anthem is pathetic and weak. I stand for the flag in my classroom EVERY day ....and I expect them to do the same.”
In another post -- this one about the African-American holiday Kwanzaa -- her comment calls it a “made-up” holiday, adding it’s a “Flash in the pan created by a black power activist, I think???”
“It’s time for us to say something. It’s time for us to speak up, not just for us but for the district,” the two fellow teachers say. “We don’t want that mindset to be in a classroom -- of hatred of anybody’s race or sexuality.”
The teachers also say the English teacher has made similar comments to students and staff in the school building. They’ve had these concerns for several years.
The English teacher’s marriage to the superintendent adds another layer of concern with the situation. So the two teachers who raised the allegations doubt anything will be done, because they say the process hasn’t been fair so far.
“Who do you go to? Yes. Whose attention do you bring this to when the person you should be complaining to is her husband -- is her boss and our boss,” they said.
The Academy West principal said he is the district’s compliance officer and will lead the investigation into the English teacher’s alleged conduct, along with the Westwood Heights school district legal counsel. The two teachers say they’re concerned because the email wasn’t sent to every staff member even though it’s asking for anyone with information to come forward.
Those two teachers had an appointment Wednesday to discuss what they know. When they arrived, the said the superintendent and his wife were right outside the door.
“Because we’ve spoke up and we finally found our voice that he knows that we went in there because he just watched us,” the two teachers said. “So it’s definitely a fear of our staff that some of them are actually talking about not going forward.”
They’ve dealt with that fear for three years. If they speak out against their hostile work environment and what students have told them is a negative learning environment, will they lose their jobs?
“Just walk away, because I feel like that would be the most professional thing that they can do -- that they just own their mistake -- and just go ahead and leave the district, instead of making the staff and students feel this uncomfortable and have to go through this,” the teachers said of what they believe would be a just solution.
Westwood Heights School District administrators say they’re not commenting while the investigation is under way.
The district has a policy about a teacher’s online presence. It reads in part: “While the Board respects its employees’ First Amendment rights, those rights do not include permission to post inflammatory comments that could compromise the District’s mission... Postings to social media should be done in a manner sensitive to the staff member’s professional responsibilities.”
The policy says the superintendent, who is the English teacher’s husband, and building principals are in charge of enforcing it.
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