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Teacher suspended for FB comments about kindergartners

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Tameka Gatewood is suspended without pay after posting comments about her students on Facebook Tameka Gatewood is suspended without pay after posting comments about her students on Facebook
A concerned parent reacts while reading the Facebook posts by an MCS teacher A concerned parent reacts while reading the Facebook posts by an MCS teacher
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) – A Memphis kindergarten teacher is suspended without pay for comments she made about her students on her Facebook page.

Memphis City Schools parents were shocked when they saw the Facebook posts of Rainshaven Elementary School teacher Tameka Gatewood.

"See, stuff like this shouldn't go on in school," said Samuel Christian.

Monica Watson agreed.

"She needs to be up out of here. Because how can you do your job and that's what you think about students?" asked Watson.

In reference to two students insulting each other, Gatewood posted the following to her Facebook page:

"How bout I blasted both of them. The girl in my class hair is nappy almost every day and the boy wears dirty clothes, face nasty and can't even read. They didn't bother nobody else when I got through with them."

The students she is referring to – are kindergartners.

Another post reads, "If another parent tell me it's my job to teach their children, it's gonna be po po time."

"Po po" is slang for police.

In another post, she offers an alternative to turning the other cheek.

"What do you think you're supposed to do? Bang! Bang! Shoot 'em up dammit! Just kidding!! For real tho - slap their ass back then Bang! Bang! Shoot 'em up dammit," Gatewood posted on Facebook.

"It's a much bigger issue than Facebook. It's a much bigger issue than a teacher saying a kid has nappy hair," said MCS School Board Commissioner Kenneth Whalum.

City Schools Commissioner Kenneth Whalum says the real issue is a school environment in which a teacher thinks there are no repercussions for this type of behavior.

"Every major employer will tell you on the front end now, ‘We checking your Facebook page. We know what you're saying on Twitter,'" said Whalum.

But Memphis City Schools is not checking social media accounts.

There is no social media policy for the district, despite the city of Memphis enacting its own policy earlier this year that prevents city employees from posting comments that reflect negatively on the city or pose a risk for lawsuits.

That policy does not apply to city school employees.

"I agree we don't have a specific social media policy, but we do have ethics," said MCS School Board Commissioner Tomeka Hart. "We do have professionalism. We expect our teachers to act as adults whether they're in social media or otherwise."

Parents believe an actual policy could deter posts like these from being made in the first place.

MCS administrators declined to talk about that on camera, but released the following statement:

"We take this very seriously. When made aware of inappropriate online posts, once the person is identified as an MCS employee, swift appropriate action is taken according to board policy and law."

Weeks after Action News 5 alerted the district to Gatewood's posts, the district suspended her without pay pending the outcome of a tenure hearing.

A review of her personnel file shows she was reprimanded multiple times for insubordination early in her career with MCS.

In a 2002 letter to personnel, the principal at Sharpe Elementary School, where Gatewood worked at the time, pleaded with the district to remove Gatewood from her clerical job.

The letter said, "How many times does a person have to be insubordinate before action is taken?"

Six years later, Gatewood became an MCS teacher.

"I know it's a sign of much more serious problems that we seem to be loathe to address," said Whalum.

Parents say it is time to address it...and wonder how this teacher addresses her students in the classroom if she address them like this in public.

"That's ridiculous. I wouldn't want anyone like that teaching my child, over them, trying to teach them the value of life...period," said Monica Watson.

Action News 5's Anna Marie Hartman tried to talk to Tameka Gatewood several times. She never responded to her requests.

Gatewood's Facebook page has been removed.

What do you think? Would a social media policy keep comments like these off social media sites if violating the policy meant reprimand? Share your thoughts with us on the Action News 5 Facebook page or by using the commenting section below.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.


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