Principal loses job over newspaper comment in support of police officer in Texas pool video

Years ago, I wrote about a young Georgia teacher who lost her job because an anonymous complaint – which I still believe came from a fellow teacher – about her Facebook photos. Those photos were routine holiday snapshots that showed the woman at a beer garden in Europe.

At the time, an official from a teacher’s group said he advises educators to stay off social media, warning it is a minefield. His advice to teachers about posting on social media was simple: Don’t do it.

Hundreds gather outside a community pool during a protest Monday, June 8, 2015, in response to an incident at the pool involving McKinney police officers in McKinney, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Hundreds gather outside a community pool during a protest Monday in response to an incident at the pool involving McKinney police officers in McKinney, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

North Miami Senior High School Alberto Iber learned that explosive lesson this week when he posted a comment on a Miami Herald story on the McKinney, Texas, pool incident. He commented via Facebook, so the comment showed his picture, name, school and title.

Iber defended the police officer, writing, “He did nothing wrong. He was afraid for his life. I commend him for his actions.” The comment prompted rebukes from residents of the North Miami community where his school was located.

On Wednesday, Iber was removed from the principal’s post by the Miami-Dade County School District.

According to the Miami Herald: Please read the full Herald story before commenting here.

The district said a replacement would be named shortly and that Iber would be reassigned to administrative duties. “Judgment is the currency of honesty,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho. “Insensitivity — intentional or perceived — is both unacceptable and inconsistent with our policies, but more importantly with our expectation of common sense behavior that elevates the dignity and humanity of all, beginning with children.”

Iber responded to a reporter’s questions on Tuesday by reading a prepared statement. “I support law enforcement, and also the community and students that I serve as the proud principal of North Miami Senior High,’’ he said. “The comment I posted was simply made as the result of a short video that I watched and my personal opinion.”

Iber, who just finished his first year as the head of North Miami Senior, said he meant to write the comment anonymously. “I regret that I posted the comment as it apparently became newsworthy and has apparently upset people,’’ he said. “That was not my intention in any way.”

This story is getting a lot of attention in Florida with people divided on whether the principal should have been yanked. To me, the question is whether he could still lead his school. I doubt many of his students were perusing the comment section of the Miami Herald, but many adults, including school district leaders, were.

What do you think?

Reader Comments 0

73 comments
newsphile
newsphile

There is nothing political about this.  This situation is covered in many new employee and volunteer orientations.  Had this individual made the comments as a private citizen, omitting place of employment, the outcome would probably be different.  Including the name of your place of employment or place of volunteering when expressing personal views is not tolerated by most entities. 

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

Would he have been fired if he had spewed the usual PC nonsense? No.

newsphile
newsphile

@TaxiSmith  I disagree.  An individual's right to free speech does not include the right to use the name of any company, non-profit, or other entity.  Having recently retired from management, I can tell you that most companies and non-profit organizations have employee and volunteer policies prohibiting such actions. 


anothercomment
anothercomment

So blacks can speak out, act out off the chain, but if a Hispanic or white person comments the truth about how the police are being total disrespected by the black community they are fired. That is BS.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

After additional thought....


Yes, it is an accepted viewpoint that an individual's right of freedom of speech does not extend to the workplace.  I would submit - PRIVATE EMPLOYER.


Here, we have a GOVERNMENT entity who is dictating the views of a citizen, who happens to be employed by the government agency.


Could prove interesting with the right attorney....


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lee_CPA2 

Also, the First Amendment only covers an individual in a public space or in a public capacity. This principal was expressing his opinions in a private space--Facebook--and seemingly, by including his job-title, speaking in a public capacity. I don't think he's covered. 


There seem to be some unmentioned racial angles that don't have to do with "PC,"  but rather negative racial dynamics that exist between blacks and Hispanics in Texas. His name clearly suggests he's Hispanic, and the accompanying news story notes that most of his school's students (and their parents) are of the same race as those in the news story he's commenting on--black, in other words. As principal, he should be sensitive to racial nuances and avoid inflaming tensions. It's hard for me to see how he could come back with the same executive authority for his school as before. I can see why the school board is switching him to a different position.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lee_CPA2 

Sorry---I meant the racial dynamics between blacks and Hispanics in Florida, esp. Miami, not Texas. From what I've heard, the tensions are even worse in that city.

Belinda51
Belinda51

The Hispanics work too hard.

Astropig
Astropig

@Lee_CPA2


I believe that you are on to something here. Clearly, the incident referenced is of "public interest" and the SCOTUS has encouraged robust public discussion and comment on such things.Otherwise, an entity calling itself "the police" could stomp all over our rights and we'd be cowed into not commenting on it for fear of...losing our livelihood for having the "wrong" opinion.


I'd like to see an "Alan Dershowitz"-type take this case and see what they could do with it. 

Greg Palamas
Greg Palamas

How can "perceived" insensitivity be against district policy? Is this functionary saying that I should be fired if someone, somewhere, thought I didn't care about his feelings? The most pathetic thing about this is that these same people would happily encourage children to march out of class and protest in favor of whatever the leftist cause of the hour is, and tell them how brave they are for not caring what others think.

I spent a year of wasted life in ed school listening to professors denigrate everything I value, and it never occurred to me to have them fired. I had nothing but contempt for their views and they knew it, but I respected their right to have their own opinions, or failing that, to borrow them from Trotsky.

And yes, you can make the hairsplitting point that employers don't have to acknowledge your freedom of speech, but bowing to an Internet mob is just as cowardly as accepting being censored by the state. Is it better or worse to be murdered by a gang of vigilantes or the secret police? This blog usually condemns the creeping corporatization of education, a sentiment with which I agree. The mores of business are terrible for anything other than business. It's strange then to see the "employer should be able to get rid of you for hurting his brand" defense of this kind of pusillanimnity.

hssped
hssped

In Fayette County we have a moral turpitude clause in our contract.  Do other states/counties not have this? 

Point
Point

@hssped Whether or not moral turpitude is stated in the contracts, it is in the Georgia Professional Standards Commission Code of Ethics for Educators and tied to teacher certification.  Ethics violations lead to reprimands, suspension, or revocation of certification.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Yes, this principal was stupid for publishing an opinion using  his name and affiliation with the school system.  But, the fact remains if he had posted the politically correct "acceptable" opinion, not only would he still have a job, but his superiors would defend "his right to free speech".


The workplace has become a politically correct minefield where a slip of the tongue can destroy a career.  Hell, it's not just holding a politically correct opinion that will get you fired.  Try doing your job and reprimanding an incompetent black.  I know a white manager who got in trouble for giving a black a poor performance review.


This country is quickly headed toward a "critical mass" of politically correct incompetency.  The crash will be spectacular.

RuthBronstein
RuthBronstein

Ms. Downey, I'm sure you're right about free speech not extending to the workplace.
But can a business (or a public institution like a school system, in this case) decide that a certain opinion or viewpoint is the "correct" one, and only penalize those who believe differently?  If a teacher or principal, for example, stated either on the internet or in another public forum that they believed the police officer should be fired, would that also lead to dismissal, or would that viewpoint be tolerated? 

redweather
redweather

I've been trying to parse "judgment is the currency of honesty" and have not succeeded after several attempts.  Looks like total nonsense to me. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Folks, Free speech does not extend to your workplace.


Here is a segment from a great  NPR interview with workplace rights expert Lewis Maltby: 


"Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment — but only where the government is concerned.What most Americans generally don't know is that the Constitution doesn't apply to private corporations at all."


In terms of monitoring its employees, the list of things a corporation can't do is a short one — it's basically confined to eavesdropping on a personal oral conversation, Maltby said. "Anything else is open season."


And outside the workplace, personal blogs or social media pages on services like Twitter or Facebook offer no refuge. Asked if workers can be fired for things they write on those sites, Maltby said, "Absolutely. Happens every day"


http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123024596



Some other articles:


http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2012-08-03/where-free-speech-goes-to-die-the-workplace


http://www.mef101.org/DisciplineRights/freespeech.html --This site gives a good summary of government employees and free speech that speaks to these educator cases in Texas:


Although you enjoy the constitutional right of freedom of speech in the workplace, your government employer still has some leeway in protecting its own operations and policies. The threshold requirement for protected speech is that it must relate to a matter of public concern. If speech relates to an employee’s private grievance, discipline based on the speech does not implicate the First Amendment. In addition, even if the speech addresses matters of public concern, when the employee’s speech rights are outweighed by the disruption that the speech causes to the operations of government, the employer can discipline the employee for speech. The more central the speech is to matters of concern to the public, the more disruptive to governments operations it must be in order to justify discipline. The impact of the speech on discipline, working relationships, work performance, and government operations is a significant consideration in weighing the government’s interests (Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U.S. 378, 1987). 

bu2
bu2

@MaureenDowney 

I suspect those precedents will be narrowed in the coming decades.


The Supreme Court has put a lot more emphasis on "privacy."


And the things viewed as causing "disprution" have massively expanded.  People get bent out of shape over the most trivial stuff nowadays. 

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

@bu2 @MaureenDowney If only the SCOTUS had previously addressed this...oh wait:

Tinker v Des Moines

As we have discussed, the record does not demonstrate any facts which might reasonably have led school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities, and no disturbances or disorders on the school premises in fact occurred. These petitioners merely went about their ordained rounds in school. Their deviation consisted only in wearing on their sleeve a band of black cloth, not more than two inches wide. They wore it to exhibit their disapproval of the Vietnam hostilities and their advocacy of a truce, to make their views known, and, by their example, to influence others to adopt them. They neither interrupted school activities nor sought to intrude in the school affairs or the lives of others. They caused discussion outside of the classrooms, but no interference with work and no disorder. In the circumstances, our Constitution does not permit officials of the State to deny their form of expression.


(Pay close attention to the last three sentences)

Re Al A T
Re Al A T

Black rappers get a free pass everyday to spew forth the most vile and racist garbage. There is a double standard here and the minorities can no longer turn a deaf ear towards it. Clean up your own act before you continue to try and censor the rest of society. While you are at it try getting an education and stop acting like thugs and hood rats!!!!  

STColeman
STColeman

Your rant makes absolutely zero sense. How can you compare a school principal, whose job it is to lead young people using sound judgement, with a rap artist, whose job is to sell records?

But I'm sure you knew your comparison was off base before you posted. This open thread just gave you an opportunity to post your racist drivel. Congrats on that. Now how about trying to get a life.

Mirva
Mirva

Last week there was another similar case of a mother in Texas who went to the school board to protest her sons elementary teacher over her something on her Pinterest account. Early on in my career I was advised by a veteran teacher to purchase alcohol in the neighboring town because some parents might “complain”.   I know several teachers who refuse to have any social media presence due to worries about what parents might find and “object”.  At what point did we decide that teachers and other school personnel should not have a personal or private life? In what other career or profession are its members warned not to have any interaction with social media?  Who else would stand for such an invasion of privacy of their own time? What a great recruitment tool for new and young teachers: “join our profession, and get off of all forms of social media”.  Of course I know that social media is not private, but if the intended audience is not for students or if it’s not used or created on school time or on school resources, it’s none of anyone else’s business. 


BCB
BCB

Unreal. This country violates the constitution every day.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

General observation:


A bunch of people are commenting about how he was entitled to voice his opinion because of freedom of speech.  Go back to the archives on blogs about the Oklahoma SAE kids.  Where were the First Amendment supporters then?

bluehammer
bluehammer

He should sue the school district for freedom of speech.

booful98
booful98

@bluehammer Go look it up. Freedom of speech does not mean what you think it means.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

@bluehammer Easy to say, but hard to do.  You know how much he'd pay out in legal fees (made more difficult because he doesn't have a job)?

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

@booful98 @bluehammer Maybe you should look it up.  The principal's employer is the government.  This is a very clear violation of his rights.

booful98
booful98

@RichardKPE @booful98 @bluehammer It turns out, you are wrong. Read Maureen's comment above.


Freedom of speech is way more severely limited than most people seem to realize and even want it to be. Doesn't change facts: you won't go to jail for criticizing your employer, but it doesn't mean there are no consequences.

ColonelJack
ColonelJack

@RichardKPE @bluehammer Actually, he still has his job - just not his position.  In the column, Maureen points out that he was "transferred to administrative duties" and removed from his position, but he still has a job.


How long he has a job ... well, my crystal ball is a little cloudy on that one.

Starik
Starik

Unlike other immigrant groups, blacks were brought to this country involuntarily and treated as property, along the lines of livestock, for most of American history.  When slavery was abolished, they were segregated from mainstream society and oppressed by Jim Crow for another century.  We still have nearly all black residential areas in most cities that maintain their own culture and values.  Many aspects of that culture and those values are not pretty.


It's not about race.  Look at recent African immigrants, who arrived voluntarily and aspire to the American dream, whatever that is in their imagination, and are doing well.  Look at the many black folks who are successes in law, medicine, business, politics and other endeavors because they have rejected the "ghetto" culture (or were protected from it by parents, the military, or just nice neighborhoods). 


Look at the people left behind.  Looking isn't pleasant.  Watch The Wire. Watch the news.  Observe the prison system. Observe the public schools in systems where black politicians run them; observe government in areas with large black majorities. DeKalb. Clayton. Atlanta. 


Is it racist to wish that we could bring as many people as we can into mainstream American culture?  The AJC has repeatedly called for discussions of racial issues but public discussion of these issues is absolutely forbidden. 


Issues surrounding police practices are valid.  We'd be better off with larger police organizations run professionally, and controlled by civilian authority like our military.  We shouldn't condemn individual police officers whose attitudes are formed by the amazingly unpleasant things they deal with every day. Perhaps we need a Metro Atlanta police force, so police could be transferred from Southwest Atlanta to North Fulton periodically as a form of rest and recreation.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

A perfect example of why some of us prefer to remain anonymous when giving our opinions on this site...


Social media and technology in general is changing our world in ways we do not yet understand fully how to deal with... It allows for unprecidented opportunities, and well as a minefield of potential disasters.  The internet has proven to be able to bring out both the best and the absolute worst of human nature.


If you have the ability, I suggest checking out the show "Black Mirror" for some interesting fictional stories revolving around today's technologies and our current forms of entertainment.





BearCasey
BearCasey

I disagree with the Principal's opinion but also disagree with his removal as Principal.  We still believe in free speech in this country.  He should not have posted it with his title visible.  He speaks for himself rather than his position. 

RockTrimlove
RockTrimlove

This guy has the right to say whatever he wants. 

He lives in a wonderful country that provides vast protection for both public and private speech. 

His speech has heightened importance because he is in a community leadership role.

A big part of quality leadership is avoiding unnecessarily choosing sides in a debate.

This is a sad story because a guy lost his job. And in the grand scheme of things he probably isn't a bad guy. He is just a guy who felt like he had a valuable opinion and wanted to share it. 

But he was not commenting on whether a dress was purple and black or gold and white or whether a professional football player's knee touched the ground before he broke the plane of the end zone.

The question here is whether a police officer acted reasonably in his actions depicted in a video. And the question is posed at a time when police actions during their interaction with black people is extremely topical.

He publicly inserted himself into a debate that necessarily involves choosing sides. His comment is open to the interpretation that he has chosen a side. On one side of the debate are people who believe that everyone deserves to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect. On the other side of the debate are those who believe that the Earth revolves around white people, and only white people (and in some instances certain minorities who provide valuable professional services to white people, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants) deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

You can post whatever you want on here and you can try to frame the debate as a technical need for more information about what happened on the day the video was made. But deep down, everyone reading this knows they have already chosen a side.

bu2
bu2

@RockTrimlove 


You have chosen the side that police are bad and white people on the whole are bad.  There are a lot of people who agree with you about this incident who aren't on your "side."


The principal clearly believed police have a very difficult, dangerous job and should be supported.  He doesn't have a lot of tolerance for rowdiness and a lack of respect for authorities.  Do we even know the race of the principal?  Maureen doesn't mention it.  He could be black, white, Hispanic, Asian for all we know from reading this column.

Blynne Roberts
Blynne Roberts

To condone an adult, any adult that treated teens the way this officer did is reprehensible!!! And to be a Principal, who is supposed to be concerned about and protect young people!! He should NEVER be in a position that deals with children!!

bu2
bu2

@MaureenDowney 

If everyone got fired for saying stupid things in anger, its hard to imagine anyone having a job.


Now actions are a different thing.


I think its telling that some parents of some of the kids involved were not critical of the McKinney police as a whole and the actions of most of the police there.  But there are professional outside agitators at work.

bu2
bu2

@booful98 @bu2 @MaureenDowney 

But usually its in the workplace and its their boss making the decision on their own, not getting pressured by outside forces or fired for something said outside the workplace.

popacorn
popacorn

Charles Barkley on why he avoids Social Media: "I don't want to give some of these losers power."

PITTFAN
PITTFAN

And what exactly did he say that was wrong?

Astropig
Astropig

 I wasn't alive during the early 1950's when Joseph MCarthy was perverting our free speech and free thought, but I imagine that the "McCarthy Era" was a lot like our present "PC Era". The only comfort that I can take is knowing that when enough people stand up to the thought police, this era will also pass.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Astropig 

I grew up during the early 1950s and remember that "McCarthy Era" well. It was nothing at all like our "present 'PC Era,'" for it involved an entire atmosphere of fear where any dissent, criticism of the government, or praise of our enemy Russia was not tolerated. I remember my father feared he was on the govt. "blacklist" because he subscribed to Harper's Magazine; and my mother feared this because she had befriended a Jewish immigrant from Russia. We were studying the American form of government in my 8th grade, and the teacher said, "It's sure better than the Russian one." I asked what the Russian form was like, and she shouted, "What are you, a Commie?"


We don't live in such a time now!

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @Astropig 

People are afraid of stating opinions because they might lose their jobs or get kicked out of school


If someone states a non-PC opinion, its "What are you-a bigot and a racist?"


If someone opposes a law allowing cross-dressing men to use women's restrooms, their e-mails get subpoenaed (see what Houston Mayor Parker did).


Its not that different except the PC police don't control all of government.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @OriginalProf @Astropig 

But none of those actions you cite have the practical result of losing your job, or being blacklisted so you can never be hired again.  They may cause criticism by some (and, please note, defense by others, which wasn't true in the McCarthy era) and controversy, but nothing worse.


And, again, the social pressure was over "un-American" activities that were considered "unpatriotic," any dissent or criticism of our government and country.

LinZoo
LinZoo

@Astropig The problem with the modern era is not that people are PC, it's that people are on the Internet and have no concept of exactly how public they are making their statements and themselves.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig


"What are you, a Commie?"


We don't live in such a time now!"


Back then, the only thing we had to fear was being called a "Commie". Now there are too many  'isms' to count. I'm sorry if I don't see the difference.


On one of my visits to Ukraine a few years back, students would always pull me out of earshot to talk about "stuff" happening in the world and their place in it.They knew that I was up on politics and such.They lived then (and now) in one of the most corrupt places on earth and they were afraid that their thoughts could be heard by the "wrong" person. I'm sure that this guy now feels this way.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig


Some of those kids in my photo album are now shooting at some of those other kids in my photo album because of their love/hate for Russia. Depressing.

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @bu2 @Astropig 

A lot of people have gotten fired over non-PC comments.  And some of them have no chance of getting hired in their industry or profession again.  If you don't think so, you haven't been paying attention to the news over the last decade.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @OriginalProf @Astropig 

But there's an important difference of degree. "Non-PC" is usually a code-word for non-liberal, and relates to the intolerance of an attitude on race, gender, or sexual orientation.  But "McCarthyism" refers to a broadside accusation of treason.  He claimed that there were 200+ hidden Communists in the government and more in the society at large who he was going to ferret out; and his congressional committee HUAC used broadside accusations and character-smears to do it.


I suppose there's a similarity in the intended thought-control. But if you've never lived through that period, you can't imagine the atmosphere of fear it produced.

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @bu2 @Astropig 

PC is the intolerance of someone's non-liberal opinion or choice of language on just about any matter progressives consider important, which is about everything-things like immigration, guns and abortion could be added to your list.


As a liberal, you were probably concerned about McCarthyism.  As a liberal, political correctness is irrelevant to you, unless you say something stupid, like an insensitive remark to a student.

Belinda51
Belinda51

I lived through it, but I don't remember my parents or any of their friends being afraid.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @OriginalProf @Astropig 

Well, yes, I guess my family was liberal back then, and so had to worry about  McCarthyism....We subscribed to Harper's Magazine, had "foreign" (and Jewish) friends, wore Adlai Stevenson buttons, my mother was a high-school teacher and a union-member, we had the Collected Works in our home of that muck-raking dissenter Sinclair Lewis...Yes, we seemed like those pinko-s that the HUAC was looking for who were guilty of treason, so we deserved being fearful....Isn't that what you're saying?

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @bu2 @Astropig


Something that impacted you personally, you noticed. 


From your last comment I can tell you are tone deaf to the impacts of political correctness.


Like you may well have accused others of being tone deaf to the impact of "driving while Black."

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @OriginalProf @Astropig @ Belinda51.

Frankly, I think that you cons have it soft with your experience of the "impacts of political correctness." A lot scarier under McCarthy and Company.


But my apologies to all, for I think that I've been ignoring some basic differences in regional history between NY/the North and the Deep South between 1948-1954 or thereabouts, during McCarthyism. Let's just say that probably it didn't much bother y'all. As I recall, the "outside agitators" were very often called Communists.


So let's just say that I think the principal here shouldn't have been fired...but it was a dumb thing to do professionally. (And didn't he have his Privacy settings on that restricted audience?)

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @bu2 @Astropig 

And the point is a lot of things are dumb to do now that are simply expressing your opinion.


What the Texas teacher said was stupid.  What the SAEs did was stupid.  What he did wasn't stupid, but in today's world, it was a bad decision.