Facebook post causes teacher trouble

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Social media has opened a world of communication for its users, but the undefined question of “How much information is too much information?” is about to be answered for one Suffolk Public Schools teacher.

Jennifer Miguel has been on leave with pay since early November, five months after she posted information about the passing and failing of students in one of her classes on Facebook.

“I do believe that I did something wrong, but I don’t believe it’s something that I should lose my career over,” Miguel said. “I would resign in a second if I had hit a child, but I don’t feel that this is something to lose my career over. I love my job, the interaction I have with them and being a part of their lives.”

Email newsletter signup

Miguel has worked for the Suffolk Public Schools system for five years and is the theater teacher and Advanced Placement and senior English teacher at King’s Fork High School. She previously taught for five years in Portsmouth and New York City schools.

In July, Miguel posted a comment on her Facebook page with the names of students who passed her AP class and the one student who failed the class.

There were no percentages or grades attached to the comment, and the student who failed the course was already enrolled in summer school, Miguel added.

She said she posted the comment because of her excitement from her students doing so well. It was her first year teaching an AP course.

She had been in conversation with the failing student throughout the school year on his performance in her class, she added.

The students who could view Miguel’s comments are mostly former students or current theater students, whom she often communicates with regarding theater through Facebook, she said.

In September, the mother of the student who failed the class was told about the comment by her child, who found out through a friend, Miguel said.

The mother brought the issue to school administration, and Miguel was subsequently asked to collect her things, was put on paid administrative leave and was told by administration that it would push for her termination due to two instances of poor judgment, Miguel said.

The previous incident occurred at the end of the 2009-10 school year, when Miguel used a racially derogatory word out loud in the classroom. The comment was not directed toward an individual, Miguel said, but was overheard by a student.

Miguel was suspended without pay for three days during the summer for that incident.

School administrators will hold a fact-finding hearing on Miguel’s case. That hearing will include the School Board attorney, Miguel, her representative and an impartial third party.

In her absence, Miguel’s classes have been taught by a substitute teacher. Her after-school theater program has been shut down.

Miguel’s husband, Russell Miguel, made an appeal to the Suffolk School Board at its Nov. 8 board meeting.

“She will sacrifice everything for her students,” he said. “So much so, that our most common arguments are how much time and money she spends on her classroom, her theater program and her kids.”

“When this issue is voted on … please remember this,” he added. “If my wife is no longer allowed to teach, you will be destroying her entire life, and she may never recover.”

School administration declined to comment or provide additional information due to confidentiality of personnel matters.