Blogging teacher Munroe responds to district

Central Bucks High School East English teacher Natalie Munroe.
Central Bucks High School East English teacher Natalie Munroe. (BILL REED / Staff)
Posted: August 05, 2011

"I'm there to teach - I'll teach in an empty classroom if I have to."

That was controversial Central Bucks High School East teacher Natalie Munroe's response Thursday to students opting out of her classes when she returns from her suspension for "crass and cruel" blog comments.

Principal Abe Lucabaugh said Wednesday that all student requests to opt out of Munroe's two 11th-grade English classes and one Debate class would be honored, a policy reserved for "when egregious or unique factors are in play."

Those factors are Monroe's blog posts, which called some students "frightfully dim," "whiny," and "utterly loathsome," though she never named individuals or the school. Students found the personal blog in February, and Munroe was suspended for two weeks with pay before going on unpaid maternity leave.

"It's disappointing that instead of smoothing the way, for my comfort level and everybody's comfort level, they [district officials] maybe made things a little bit worse," Munroe said about comments Lucabaugh and other district leaders made at a news conference Wednesday.

"It seems like there will be more of a fight, another hurdle," the 11th grade English teacher said in an interview at her Warminster home. "I have apprehension about returning, for me, for everybody. The climate could have been defused."

Lucabaugh said Wednesday that "the sole reason" for Munroe's return is that she has "employee rights." He called the situation "toxic" and described her blog posts about students, coworkers, and administrators as "crass and cruel" and "unprofessional, disrespectful, and disturbing, particularly coming from the heart of an educator."

The principal said about 60 students had requested to opt out of Munroe's classes, though some have not been assigned to her. He said he expected to receive more requests through Aug. 19, when schedules will be available.

Munroe typically would have 90 students in the three classes. A district spokesman could not say on Thursday whether additional requests had been received since the opt-out policy was publicized Wednesday.

On Munroe's blog, titled, "Where are we going & why are we in this handbasket," the teacher wrote that she felt limited by "canned" report card comments, wishing for alternatives such as "dresses like a streetwalker," "shy isn't cute in 11th grade; it's annoying," and "just as bad as his sibling. Don't you know how to raise kids?"

Because of such comments, "and by blatantly refusing to apologize for her actions," Lucabaugh said Wednesday, Munroe "has created an unenviable position for herself. By exercising her right to speak, she has sacrificed her respect, her professionalism, and her ethical standing as an educator, role model, and mentor for students. And no matter where she goes now, no matter where she intends to teach, that is unavoidable - and as such, Mrs. Munroe has no choice but to assume responsibility for her actions."

Munroe repeated her position that she had been blogging anonymously "for me and seven friends" for more than a year - she identified herself as Natalie M. and posted her photo - before her comments "were rooted out and taken out of context. . . . I'm always sorry when things are taken out of context."

Munroe has resumed blogging about recipes, restaurants, and the school district. She said she is sure her experiences in the high school "will find their way in there, until they come up with their new policy."

District Superintendent N. Robert Laws said Wednesday that the social media policies are being revised "to make them more specific as technology evolves."

School Board President Paul Faulkner added, "We had a policy for students, never for teachers. We never thought we needed one."

Asked whether she thought the district, with its student opt-out policy and harsh criticism, was seeking her resignation, Munroe said, "I don't know what they're trying to create. They could have made it more pleasant."

Her plan is to show up on Aug. 29 to start her ninth semester at the school.

"I can teach effectively," she said. "I don't know what the climate will be."


More on BucksInq

For Central Bucks High School East principal Abe Lucabaugh's statement about Natalie Munroe and the responses of the teacher and her lawyer, go to www.philly.com/philly/

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

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