O’Brien, a tenured first-grade teacher in Paterson who posted on the social networking site last spring that her students were “future criminals,” can be fired for her actions, an administrative law judge ruled.
Her fate is in the hands of Chris Cerf, the acting state education commissioner, who must decide whether or not to accept the nonbinding ruling within 45 days of the Nov. 7 announcement.
Judge Ellen Bass ruled that, "O'Brien has demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the world in which her students live. The sentiment that a 6-year-old will not rise above the criminal element that surrounds him cuts right to the bone."
According to a report on UPI.com, Bass recommended sensitivity training for O’Brien before she be considered for another teaching position. However, she should not teach again in Paterson, where she has worked since 1998, because her relationship with the school district was “damaged.”
Also, the district’s need to efficiently operate its schools was more important than O’Brien’s right to free speech, the judge decided.
Nancy Oxfeld, O’Brien’s attorney, will appeal to the commissioner that the teacher be allowed to keep her job.
“There were a few incidents and a lot of news trucks for one day,” Oxfeld told The Record of Hackensack. “We don’t think there would be any problem at all.”
O’Brien’s wrote last March that “I’m not a teacher — I’m a warden for future criminals.” The post was intended to reach only the Elmwood Park resident’s 300 Facebook friends, but it quickly went viral and grabbed headlines across the country.
Paterson district spokeswoman Terry Corallo said the district welcomed the judge’s ruling.
—JOE GREENE, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM