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High school counselor who was fired for criticizing students that skipped class to protest loses appeal

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An appeals court has upheld the firing of Patricia Crawford, a former high school guidance counselor at Rubidoux High School (RHS) in Riverside County’s Jurupa Unified School District in California, over Facebook posts where she expressed opposition to students missing classes in order to attend protests.

We obtained a copy of the ruling for you here.

Crawford’s comments were part of a Facebook thread where she and other teachers at the school had commented on several students skipping their classes to attend the February 16, 2017 national “Day Without Immigrants” protest against some of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

The thread was started by teacher Geoffrey Greer and some of the comments in the thread had described the absent students as “lazy,” “troublemakers,” and as looking for an excuse to get drunk.

Crawford commented in the thread that: “Cafeteria was much cleaner after lunch, lunch, itself, went quicker, less traffic on the roads, and no discipline issues today. More, please.”

Several current and former students responded to the thread by expressing disappointment at the lack of support from teachers and specifically Crawford.

Crawford responded with: “Disappointing is to think that some of my students still don’t get it about education. Staff members who are sympathetic to the cause were at school today.…What I saw today was more proof, just like last year, that boycotts, especially of education, aren’t the answer. It just keeps the ones who need it the most as useful fools.”

Further complaints followed with one complaining about counselors who “belittle what you want to be” and another complaining that “when you’re trying to aim high, they tell you that you can’t.”

Crawford responded: “Any counselor who chops you off at the knees like that shouldn’t be a counselor. That’s why today upset me so much. I want my students to go out there and stand proud. Education is one way to do that.”

One person then accused Crawford of contradicting herself and she responded with: “I’m the great-granddaughter of immigrants. I care. But this isn’t the way to go about effecting change. My post was meant to be snarky. Get over yourselves.”

The thread went viral on social media and after it started to gain traction, classrooms of some of the teachers who participated in the thread were vandalized, students staged a walkout, and hundreds of email complaints were sent to the district with 50 mentioning Crawford’s Facebook comments. Crawford also received at least 10 direct complaints and almost 40 people had complained about Crawford at a board meeting after the incident.

Crawford and five other faculty members were then placed on administrative leave and in May 2017, Crawford was told that she was to be fired.

Crawford had argued that “immoral conduct” worthy of terminating a teacher should be limited to “criminal activity and using profanity and racial epithets” and that her posts didn’t meet this bar.

But Justice Carol D. Codrington cited a 1969 California Supreme Court decision in Morrison v. State Board of Education where “immoral conduct” was described as “conduct which is hostile to the welfare of the school community” and upheld the decision to fire Crawford “because of the adverse effect her comments had on her professional reputation, her ability to counsel students effectively, and her relationship with RHS generally.”

Codrington said the Facebook comments “had an undeniable negative effect” on the school and students.

Several students testified and said they perceived Crawford’s comments as harboring anti-immigrant sentiment while the administrative committee governing teacher discipline found Crawford’s “get over yourselves” remark “demonstrated her utter lack of understanding or appreciation for the magnitude of her actions.”

The decision against Crawford is one of many examples of people being fired for sharing opinions online. Some of the opinions that people are now losing their jobs over include rejecting the idea of “white privilege,” supporting author J.K. Rowling, or questioning the obsession with COVID deaths.

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