Fort Worth teacher put on administrative leave after tweeting at Trump
A teacher was placed on administrative leave with pay from the Fort Worth school district Wednesday after officials said she directed a string of anti-immigrant comments to President Donald Trump on Twitter.
A Twitter account with the display name Georgia Clark began to gain attention Tuesday evening and into early Wednesday morning as people circulated a series of tweets from the account that asked Trump to crack down on immigration at Carter-Riverside High School. One posting listed her phone numbers and asked that Trump help remove “illegals from Fort Worth.”
Carter-Riverside’s school website lists Georgia Clark as faculty in English language arts.
By late morning, Fort Worth schools had placed the teacher on paid administrative leave after it was determined the account belonged to the teacher and that she made the posts. The account, @rebecca1939, was deleted by early Wednesday afternoon.
“The district is reviewing its options,” said Clint Bond, spokesman for the school district.
A message left at one of two numbers posted on Clark’s account was not immediately returned. By Wednesday afternoon, that number no longer worked. The other number was changed to an unknown new number.
Superintendent Kent P. Scribner issued voice and email messages to parents Wednesday evening in Spanish and English regarding the case and social media use by staff. He told parents the district is focused on teaching students while treating them with dignity and respect.
“As we conclude the school year this Friday, please know we take this promise very seriously and your child’s safety and well-being are always our number-one priority,” he said in the statement.
‘A high degree of control’
Teachers are expected to abide by the district’s employee standards of conduct. Employees are held responsible for their public conduct because they are role models to students, according to district policy. Employees are held to the same professional standards in their public use of electronic media and are held responsible for content posted on personal social media accounts.
“If an employee’s use of electronic media interferes with the employee’s ability to effectively perform his or her job duties, the employee is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment,” district policy states.
The Texas Association of School Boards states that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that employees don’t lose their First Amendment rights when they enter a school. Still, school systems have “a high degree of control” when the speech is work related.
When speech is protected, districts can’t retaliate against employees, according to TASB.
“On the other hand, when an employee’s speech does not have First Amendment protection, the employee may receive a reprimand, change of assignment, or even dismissal as a result of speech, in accordance with other law and policy.”
The teacher’s account has a history of directing posts to the media, White House and Trump Twitter accounts. In one tweet, she asked if the medical profession is the “root cause of gender identity issues.”
Several comments have centered on illegal immigration tied to schools. In a Jan 6. comment, the teacher stated that school districts are protecting immigrants who don’t have legal status.
Earlier this month, a tweet on the account stated that she had contacted federal authorities about her concerns.
The tweets that drew ire on social media this week focused on immigration, casting attention on a Fort Worth campus.
One post directed to Trump’s Twitter account stated: “Mr. President, I asked for assistance in reporting illegal immigrants in the FWISD public school system and what I received was an alarming tweet from someone identifying himself as one of your assistants followed by a second tweet from the same person — cont.”
Another message singles out Carter-Riverside.
“Mr. President, Fort Worth Independent School district is loaded with illegal students from Mexico. Carter-Riverside High School has been taken over by them. Drug dealers are on our campus and nothing was done to them when the drug dogs found the evidence.”
The district was alerted by people who saw the tweets.
A diverse school district
The Fort Worth school district is more than 60% Hispanic. At Carter-Riverside, the student body was 87.5% Hispanic in 2017-18. White students were the second highest demographic at 5.1% and African-Americans followed at 4.4%.
District leaders have worked to let the community know it welcomes students from all walks of life and backgrounds.
In 2017, shortly after Trump’s administration began, Fort Worth school trustees voted in favor of a resolution that declares the district “welcoming and safe” for all students, regardless of their immigration status.
Under the resolution, the district will “strive to create the safest possible environments for its students and employees … free of insecurity and fear.” The resolution references the district’s anti-discrimination policy and the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that all children, including those without an immigration status, are entitled to a public education.
Students have voiced concerns about immigration issues in recent years. In September 2017, Fort Worth students walked out to show their concerns about laws described as anti-immigrant.