Jennifer O’Brien, a first grade teacher in Paterson, N.J., posted remarks on Facebook that her class that’s made up of mostly black and Latino students were “future criminals.”
The post, intended for O’Brien’s 333 friends on Facebook read, “i’m not a teacher — i’m a warden for future criminals,” reports NorthJersey.com.
“They had a scared straight program in school–why couldn’t i bring 1st graders?” she went on to say in a post six hours later. O’Brien was referencing a school event that took place earlier that day that allowed sixth graders to talk to prison inmates about the consequences of crimes.
“I was speaking out of frustration to their behavior, just that build up of ‘I don’t know what else to do,’ and I’m actually scared for their futures, for some of them,” O’Brien told a state administrative judge saddled with deciding whether she should be able to keep her job or not. “If you’re hitting your teacher at 6 or 7 years old, that’s not a good path.”
Rev. Kenneth Clayton, the president of the local branch of the NAACP who was called to testify, called O’Brien’s comments stupid and said they “help us realize again that racism has not been erased from our country.”
“I know that children can be testy and tedious and all those things, but to say in first grade there that you’re a warden for them, that’s reprehensible … if a teacher or any adult leader could look at children like that in the first grade and think that, then the children are doomed,” Clayton went on to say.
Boyce Watkins, a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World coalition, says O’Brien’s frustrations are understandable but “it’s not difficult to see that her comments are rooted in the same racial bias that destroys so many black and brown children in America’s broken school system.”
“Although Ms. O’Brien would like to believe that these six year old children have already routed themselves to prison, the truth is that she herself has incarcerated her kids in the prison of low expectations. Instead of spending her time trying to elevate their minds to become doctors, lawyers and professors, Ms. O’Brien seems to believe that the most she can do for her six year olds is keep them out of jail.” Watkins wrote on YourBlackWorld.com