Education

Fort Worth teacher fired over racist language plans appeal

School board proposes to fire Texas teacher after tweets to Trump on illegal immigration

The Fort Worth Independent School District held a special meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, concerning Carter-Riverside High teacher Georgia Clark's tweets against immigration to Donald Trump. The school board proposed to terminate her employment.
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The Fort Worth Independent School District held a special meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, concerning Carter-Riverside High teacher Georgia Clark's tweets against immigration to Donald Trump. The school board proposed to terminate her employment.

The Carter-Riverside teacher whose Twitter posts against immigrant students sparked a backlash plans to appeal the Fort Worth school board’s recommendation that she be fired.

On Tuesday, the Fort Worth school board voted 8-0 in favor of Georgia Clark’s “proposed termination.” Trustee T.S. Sims was not present for the vote. Superintendent Kent P. Scribner recommended that Clark be terminated based on her use of racially insensitive language and her abuse of social media.

Clark, an English teacher, was placed on administrative leave last week after the district was alerted about Twitter posts that she directed to President Donald Trump. She told a district investigator she thought the messages were private.

Clark’s attorney, Brandon Y. Brim, informed the Fort Worth Star-Telegram via email on Wednesday that Clark “intends to request a hearing for the purpose of contesting the proposed action against her contract.”

No further comment was made in the case.

The school board determined that Clark’s conduct and the public reaction to her conduct compromised her ability to teach.

“Once the tweets came to light, so, too, did other allegations, and it was my professional judgment that it was in the best interest of the district,” Scribner said Tuesday after the vote.

The board was required to vote on the issue because Clark is a contract employee who has protections under Texas laws. The termination moved Clark’s case into an appeal phase with the Texas Education Agency. Under that process, Clark can request a due process hearing.

The education commissioner can appoint a hearing officer who listens to both sides of the issue. Generally, the hearing takes place within 60 days.

The Fort Worth school board would have to vote again on the matter based on the recommendation of the hearing officer.

Clark remains employed with pay during that process, according to the district.

“This board has a strong record of supporting students and their quest for success, college, career and community leadership,” Scribner said. “Fort Worth serves 86,000 students, and it is our goal that we treat each one with dignity and respect, and based on the information that we have, we think this is the most responsible recommendation at this time.”

Clark’s case drew national attention as it moved from a topic on social media to an investigation by the school district. The district’s vote to pursue the termination of the teacher was covered by numerous medial outlets, including The New York Times and Time.

Supporters of Clark emerged on social media, saying she has a First Amendment right. Some applauded her efforts to enlist Trump in focusing on undocumented immigrants in Fort Worth.

Teacher is placed on leave after asking President Trump for help reporting undocumented immigrants in schools.

But more common among the social media posts were critics of Clark who called her out as a bully. Among posts reviewed by the school district were comments from former students who discussed their experiences with Clark through the years. One post the district obtained is by a former student who said that Clark called her fat.

“She routinely told me I was fat & that I could not play any roles in her plays because I would ‘break the stage’ and when she called attendance she always referred to me as ‘chubby or pudgy,” said the former student.

Another comment described Clark as “a terror of a teacher.”

“She got in shouting matches often with students and made her prejudices clear,” the former student wrote.

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Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.
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