Teacher suspension reduced to five days

Teacher suspension reduced to five days
Kelly Tucker in foreground (Source: WALB)
John Smith
John Smith
Stacey Beckham
Stacey Beckham

TIFTON, GA (WALB) - The Tift County School Board voted to suspend a teacher over a controversial Facebook post that the superintendent called a racially charged rant.

Wednesday, the school board voted 4 to 1 to uphold the Kelly Tucker's suspension, but reduced it to five days.

Board members began deliberating Monday after hearing testimony from several witnesses, and just before two o'clock, they announced their decision.

"Motion carries, we are adjourned," said the chairman. And just like that, the suspension is upheld for 8th Street Middle School teacher Kelly Tucker.

Board members decided that this post on a public Facebook page was insensitive and inflammatory.

"The ground does exist to impose disciplinary action against Mrs. Tucker and impose a five day suspension without pay and diversity training," said board member John Smith.

Superintendent Patrick Atwater suggested a 10-day suspension without pay for the post that reacted to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

One board member did not agree with Atwater's punishment, or the punishment decided on by the majority. "I don't feel like the evidence that was presented by both sides warrants the penalty imposed," said Keith Barr.

Friends of Tucker say her first amendment rights should protect her from anything she posts on her facebook away from work. but school officials disagree.

"Teachers are held to a higher standard. They are still of course entitled to any opinion they'd like to have but when you put that opinion out in public forum, it does call into question the educator's code of ethics," said spokeswoman Stacey Beckham.

A code of ethics that Beckham says all teachers sign off on and are well aware of. "She knew that was part of her professional conduct that she was going to be held to, and that was part of her contract, and that's why it's just not a First Amendment issue anymore," said Beckham. "Everyone loses. She's one of our teachers. She's part of us."

Beckham says advances in social media will make cases like this common, but hopes teachers in Tift County learn from this situation.

Neither Tucker, nor her attorney, had any comment after the decision. She has 30 days to appeal the suspension to a state board.

Copyright  2015 WALB.  All rights reserved.