Education

Fort Worth teacher on leave over Twitter posts has history of inappropriate language

An English teacher whose Twitter posts against immigration sparked a backlash on social media has a history of run-ins with the Fort Worth school district over her use of racially insensitive language.

Georgia Clark, who has been working with the district since 1998, has a history of questionable behavior that was documented in internal summaries on file with the district’s Office of Professional Standards, according to records obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request.

On Tuesday, the school board is scheduled to review Clark’s job contract after she again came under investigation for a series of Tweets attributed to her account. She told the district she thought her Tweets were private messages to President Donald Trump, not public posts.

The records detail cases of inappropriate behavior and language that came under review while Clark taught at Leonard Middle School and Western Hills High School.

Clark was suspended without pay and reassigned in 2013 after referring to students at Western Hills High School as “Little Mexico” and “white bread.”

During the 2013-14 school year, Clark worked at Western Hills High School as a reading teacher, but was recommended for termination by a review committee after she was accused of using racist language toward students. She was kept by the district after the United Educators Association helped her find a resolution with the district, the records state.

Eighteen student witnesses made statements in that case. A co-worker on campus also told the district Clark used racist language when referring to students. That internal review began Nov. 7, 2013, and closed on Jan. 3, 2014.

In November 2013, Clark was accused of calling a group of Hispanic students “Little Mexico.” She also reportedly called a Caucasian student “white bread,” and separated the class by race, according to the reports.

“The Mexicans on one side and the white and black people on another side,” one student told the district’s Office of Professional Standards in 2013. “She had told the Mexicans that (they’re) Mexico and that the white and blacks are America.”

Clark came under district scrutiny again last week when a Twitter account using her name circulated a series of tweets that asked Trump to crack down on immigration at Carter-Riverside High School.

One tweet listed her phone numbers and asked Trump to help remove “illegals from Fort Worth.”

Clark, who is listed as an English teacher at Carter-Riverside, was placed on administrative leave with pay last week. She could not be reached for comment.

However, she told Newsweek: “As the editor of my college newspaper years ago (Vietnam era), I know there is always another side to the story.”

Behavior under scrutiny

In 2013, Western Hills students told the district that Clark said Mexicans need to cross the border to come to America. She also reportedly alluded to gangs by calling another student “a blood” because he wore red shoes, the report states.

She spoke in Spanish to the Hispanic students as if they did not speak English and used stereotypes about African-Americans, according to another student.

Clark told administrators that her students segregated themselves.

“While checking their work, I noticed that they were spending their time talking instead of working together,” Clark said in the report. “I decided it was time to mix the class together. When I asked them to blend in with the rest of the class, they informed me that they were fine where they were. That’s when I said we weren’t going to have Texas on one side and Little Mexico on the other side.”

As part of that case, Clark also told administrators she didn’t remember saying, “white bread.” She said she remembers students laughing at her.

Clark said she didn’t single out a student as being in a gang because of his shoes. She was instead complimenting the student on his shoes.

“He asked me if I was inferring that he was in a gang,” Clark told the district. “He was smiling at me when he said it ... I did not accuse him of being in a gang.”

On Nov. 7, 2013, an assistant principal observed the class and didn’t witness students being separated, the report states. That allegation was not substantiated. But the district did find that Clark used racially insensitive language.

The case also relied on a statement from a co-worker who said Clark told him that a female student “was too busy hanging out with her black boyfriend in the afternoons to go out and sell ads” for the yearbook.

The co-worker told the district: “Her statement to me was racist. Her statement to me was judgmental about a student’s relationship with another student.”

The case was closed after Clark agreed to accept three days without pay, a letter of reprimand and transfer to another campus. She was assigned to Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School on Jan. 13, 2014, records state.

Previous internal reviews

The earliest issue documented in the records took place in 1998, when Clark was placed on administrative leave for using an abusive manner to speak to students.

In 2007, Clark allegedly kicked a student on the foot while working at Leonard Middle School, records state. The student told his mother about the incident and the mother, in turn, reported it to the principal.

Students told district administrators Clark kicked the underside of the student’s foot.

“The severity/intensity of the kick was described by one student as ‘hard,’ ” the report states. Clark told administrators she didn’t mean to hurt the student.

“Ms. Clark acknowledged contact was made with the student but insisted the contact was not intended to hurt the student but merely to move the student’s foot from the camera she was using to film a piece for her drama class,” the report states.

In that case, the allegation was “substantiated without malice.” District administrators recommended specialized training and a letter of concern was written to Clark based on the case.

In June 2012, she was reviewed for inappropriate behavior at Western Hills High School after she reportedly told people she suspected two teachers were having an affair.

Job under review

Clark’s future as a teacher in the Fort Worth school district will be discussed Tuesday during a school board meeting.

The district’s nine-member school board will deliberate Clark’s employment during a closed session. Clark’s employment could be terminated with action from the board.

The case put the district at the center of a debate about what constitutes First Amendment speech and what is a breach of employee policy.

Norman Quigley, president of the Fort Worth Education Association, said social media use is monitored by school districts and guided by district policies. He warned school employees: “As long as you are employed by the district, you always represent the district whether you are at work or off work.”

Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association, warned teachers to be careful about what they post on social media in a string of Tweets.

“Case after case proves that personal conduct affects your ability to be effective in the classroom,” Poole said in one Tweet.

School district leaders said they remain committed on serving all students.

“Schools should be a safe place for our children and for our families,” said school board president, Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos Jr. in a statement. “That has been and will continue to be our message to children — and to their families. Every child in our District is welcome.”

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