First-Grade Teacher Calls Students “Future Criminals”

A first-grade teacher in Paterson, N.J. was suspended Thursday for allegedly making Facebook comments that her six-year-old students are “future criminals” and referring to herself as a “warden,” according to school officials.

Paterson School 21 principal Frank Puglise confirmed that the teacher was placed on administrative leave, with pay, pending investigation by the superintendent’s office.

Darlene Morris, who does advocacy work for school parents, learned about the comments when several upset parents showed her the Facebook page.

According to Morris, the teacher who made the comments was Jennifer O’Brien, a previous technology coordinator who was moved into a teaching position.

“If people show that much disdain for their jobs they should be removed from the classroom regardless of tenure," she said.

The school declined to make the teacher available, and she did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

Paterson Board of Education President Thomas Best said the alleged comments were "disheartening and unacceptable."

“I think it’s extremely disappointing that we have teachers in the classroom who are responsible for ensuring that their students have a bright future not even giving those children a chance,” he said.

It’s also not the first time a teacher has made such comments about students, he said.

“Overall we have a good teaching force, but I’ve heard comments like this before,” said Best. “It’s not on Facebook, but a lot of times the kids are referred to as 'animals.'”

Best confirmed that the teacher in question was originally a tenured technology coordinator who was moved to the position of first-grade teacher.

After layoffs of several hundred teachers, some faculty with seniority kept their jobs by switching to other positions.

“That’s one of the problems with the system,” said Best. “It’s possible to never have taught one day, but based on your seniority you’re placed in a teaching job.”

“When an incident like this occurs that obstructs instruction in the classroom, something has to be done,” said Best.  “If this is true, that teacher has no business being in the classroom.”


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