A string of emails between Florida public school administrators reveal the principal who suspended an 11-year old girl for recording her teacher verbally abusing another student last month refused to formally explain the reasoning behind her decision.
Samuel Gaines Academy Principal Traci Wilkes was unresponsive for two days even after St Lucie Public School administrators reached out to her about lifting the suspension considering the student’s video led to the firing of science teacher Erica Johnson, whose name had previously not been released.
Granted, it was Saturday, so perhaps she wasn’t accessing her work email account, but the story had been reported a day earlier in all the local media and was on its way to going viral.
Assistant Superintendent John J. Lynch was the first to contact Wilkes saying it was in everyone’s best interest to unsuspend the student.
After Wilkes did not respond, Lynch contacted Superintendent Genelle Yost on how to deal with the situation. Yost expressed hope that Wilkes would reach the decision on her own accord rather than after pressure from the district as media scrutiny increased.
“I do not believe she truly understands the magnitude of the decision.” Yost said in a March 28 email to Lynch.
“Looks as if primary focus is still on suspension from a media perspective. Only limited coverage of teacher dismissal. And, credit appears to be given to the student for unveiling the problem.”
That Monday, after PINAC’s Carlos Miller published a story, Wilkes responded to her superiors by informing them that even more students had been suspended, but she needed to find out their names.
Later that afternoon, the mother of of Brianna Cooper, the student who had been suspended, told local media that the suspension had been lifted.
But there was never an official statement from the district.
The initial suspension was made on the grounds that as a teacher, Johnson had an expectation of privacy in her classroom. Seems strange that in the era of smartphones anyone can expect privacy, especially in a school environment where the many students are glued to their phones.
Furthermore, public schools are now equipped with a bevy of surveillance cameras and administrators regularly visit classrooms to check on both teacher and student progress.
In this day and age it is almost impossible to expect privacy anywhere, especially in a school environment where adults are responsible for the livelihood of children.
As much as Wilkes may have tried to forget this whole incident, the story is far from over as Cooper’ s family has hired an attorney and wants to settle in court.
Looks like someone is going to have a lot of explaining to do.