Students rankled by teachers’ computer chat

May. 16, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

An in-school computer chat between two teachers has upset some students at Lee Early College, who see the conversation as derogatory and believe it calls for a public apology.

Those involved at the school itself won’t comment on the matter. But Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan said he believes the teachers’ discussion was simply out of concern for students’ welfare. He said staff from the school and the district office investigated the matter after it came to light, and everything has been resolved.

Some students at the school, though, including the 16-year-old whose English teacher and mentor said will “most likely get pregnant,” explained that they don’t consider the matter resolved and are still waiting on more from the adults at their school.

The girl named in the message said she and a friend were staying after class one day late last month and borrowed a school computer, on which they saw the message and took a picture of it. The 16-year-old mentioned in the message said she was shocked by what she saw her teacher saying.

“We had a close relationship, like no other student or teacher,” the girl said. “She helped me through so much, even with other classes.”

The girl — whose identity The Herald is withholding to protect her privacy — said she has remained in the teacher’s class, but their relationship hasn’t been the same since. Her teacher and the school’s principal, Robert Biehl, also came to her house to talk with her and her mother, the girl said, but didn’t seem to truly be sorry.

“She hasn’t really said anything to me,” the girl said. “What she said to me so far wasn’t really an apology. I would like an apology. She said that she hated that I [had] seen it and asked me would I come back in her classroom.”

The girl did rejoin the teacher’s class but said she’s still waiting on an apology weeks later. Her mother also said she wasn’t satisfied by the home visit.

“It, to me, really didn’t sound sincere,” she said. “It seemed like they were just covering their behinds.”

Biehl declined to comment for this story. He also declined to make either teacher available for comment.

Bryan said no one has contacted the central office requesting an apology or any other action, and that Biehl told him no one has contacted the school, either. The girl named in the messages, however, said she doesn’t think she should have to officially request an apology to get one.

The messages

The entire conversation wasn’t depicted in the screenshot, but the part that was captured begins with a science teacher saying she doesn’t “think anyone needs medication or a therapist” — but that even so, she thinks one particular student could use some Adderall, a prescription drug used to control attention disorders.

After that, the English teacher identified the female student who “will most likely get pregnant, if I’m being really really painfully honest,” while also noting the girl values her education and so even if she got pregnant, it wouldn’t be “the end of the world.”

After the science teacher asked about the student’s social life, the English teacher responded, “dude, she had like 200 people at her party.”

The science teacher responded with a smiley face and a mention of the girl’s Twitter followers.

The response

Bryan said staff from his office and from the school began investigating once the messages surfaced in late April and have since come to a satisfactory conclusion. He wouldn’t divulge specifics of the investigation or its findings, however, citing privacy rules.

“All concerned parties participated in the investigative process, and we believe the situation has been appropriately resolved,” Bryan said in a written statement.

“Lee County teachers care deeply about their students, and we certainly believe that is the case here as well,” Bryan wrote.

A student at the school, who was not mentioned in the messages but tipped off The Herald, said neither Biehl nor the teachers involved have addressed the student body about the incident.

The girl who was named in the messages said students have teased her, putting their hands on her stomach and congratulating her on a pregnancy that doesn’t exist. She didn’t want to return to school at first, she said, and might transfer next year. But in the meantime, she said she’s using the messages as motivation.

“It just makes me want to prove them wrong and get my grades up to where they need to be,” she said.

Lee Early College, according to its website, “offers a rigorous academic program where students take a combination of honors-level high school courses as well as community college courses in order to obtain not only a high school diploma, but also an associate’s degree.” It’s located on the Sanford campus of Central Carolina Community College.