Central Bucks teacher Munroe suspended for blog posts gets ready to return

Natalie Munroe wrote of her students.
Natalie Munroe wrote of her students.
Posted: August 04, 2011

Natalie Munroe has the legal right to teach in the Central Bucks School District and to continue blogging, district officials said Wednesday, but they don't know how many students the author of "crass and cruel" posts will have when classes start Aug. 29.

"While something may be legally right, it may not be ethically or morally right," Central Bucks High School East principal Abe Lucabaugh said. District officials spoke about the matter for the first time since the English teacher's reinstatement became public last week. She had been suspended in February after blogging about her students.

"The decision to do the right thing does not rest with the . . . district," he said. "Mrs. Munroe is afforded legal employment rights. The decision to do the right thing lies in the hands of the person whose very hands created this controversy, Mrs. Munroe."

Superintendent N. Robert Laws said, "We're not here to ask her to resign. We're reacting to the situation that she created. . . . We're working within the legal parameters."

Paul Faulkner, the school board's president, said it was "not in the best interest" of the district's 95,000 taxpayers to dismiss Munroe and face a costly legal fight.

In an unusual move reserved for "when egregious or unique factors are in play," the district is allowing students to opt out of Munroe's 11th-grade English and debate classes at Central Bucks East, Lucabaugh said.

About 60 students have made such requests, and more are expected to do so through Aug. 19, when schedules will be available, Lucabaugh said. "I suspect this is only just the beginning."

Not all 60 students had been assigned to Munroe, who typically would have 90 students in the three classes, he said. Laws would not describe "backup plans" if Munroe has too few students to conduct the classes.

If Munroe does have classes, they will be monitored "very closely," Lucabaugh said. "I'll have many conversations with Mrs. Munroe before she goes in the classroom. I don't know what those conversations will sound like just yet."

He said he also would talk with Munroe's students: "They will be told they are expected to be respectful. This can't become . . . a distraction."

Munroe's blog posts about students, faculty, and administrators that led to her suspension in February "were unprofessional, disrespectful and disturbing, particularly coming from the heart of an educator," Lucabaugh said in a statement. "Moreover, and most importantly, they were crass and cruel."

The principal provided a Jan. 21, 2010, blog post because "the public did not have full access to the full blog and the darker, more profane comments and images about students, parents and coworkers that it contained. . . .. Phrases like 'I hate your kid,' 'Don't you know how to raise kids?' . . . and 'frightfully dim' evoke shock and hurt."

The district is returning Munroe to the school she wrote about because "relocating the teacher would be both irresponsible and further disruptive," Lucabaugh said. "All parties will be best served by containing the issue and monitoring the known environment at her current school. We will not condone shifting a toxic situation to another building and creating a maelstrom there."

Munroe, who was suspended with pay for two weeks before going on unpaid maternity leave, responded Wednesday in an e-mail that she was disappointed the district brought up the past "instead of working on building a future positive teaching environment." She repeated her position that her opinions were about some students, while others were "excellent learners." And she wrote that she would have preferred to work in one of the other seven middle or high schools.

Her lawyer, Steven Rovner, added: "I can only surmise that the tone and nature of the Central Bucks School District administrators is showing their hand that they have reinstated Mrs. Munroe as a matter of law, yet they are setting her up for failure in the classroom. Mrs. Munroe is excited to get back to teaching in the classroom and putting all of this behind."

Contact staff writer Bill Reed at 215-801-2964, wreed@philly.com and @breedbucks on Twitter.

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