9.24.2009

What Are All These Black Kids Doing Here?

Those are the words allegedly uttered by Michelle Flynn, a Philadelphia public school teacher at Laura H. Carnell Elementary, when minority campers showed up at her private swim club.

According to a report by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Flynn later sent an email that said: "I personally know these kids because I teach at their school. . . . I don't feel comfortable with my children even going to the bathroom" while they're there.

As of tonight, Flynn still has a job at her Philadelphia public school, teaching the very children that she was apparently horrified to be around. What kind of message does that send to the children at that school? Flynn's superiors are throwing around words like "alleged" (despite the fact that some of Flynn's comments were in writing) and "free speech."

Hmm. Free speech. There's a civic lesson for our school children.

To be clear, I believe in free speech. And I believe in not rushing to judgement. And I believe in giving folks the benefit of the doubt.

But I also believe in role models and authority figures, as well as kindness, tolerance and decency.

Ms. Flynn apparently doesn't think those things are that important.

However, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission does. The Commission found that the club had racially discriminated against a Northeast Philadelphia day camp this summer. And a prominent figure in that saga was Ms. Flynn.

I'm not saying our teachers should be perfect. And I'm not saying that they should be held to a higher standard than other professionals. But I do think they should be held to a reasonable standard and what Ms. Flynn said wasn't reasonable. And it wasn't appropriate. And no child should ever have to experience that kind of hate - especially from their teacher.

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