Teacher criticized for Facebook posts resigns

Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The "time-out room" from Amber Russell's classroom, above, along with some recent Facebook posts, is at the center of a controversy over which the North Putnam Middle School teacher resigned Tuesday.

BAINBRIDGE -- A North Putnam Middle School special education teacher criticized for comments she made on Facebook and involved in an August 2010 incident in which she allegedly shut a child in a "closet" turned in a letter of resignation Tuesday, effective immediately.

Amber Russell was brought to media attention based on comments she made on her Facebook wall, such as "I love dumb people. I call it job security" and "5+1=Freedom from the Hell hole." After this incident, Leigh Casto and disability advocate Jill Summerlot met with middle school principal Terry Tippin regarding an August 2010 incident in which Russell had reportedly placed Casto's son Nathan, who is autistic, in what was allegedly being used as a storage closet at the time.

In a press release from school corporation superintendent Mary Sugg Lovejoy,which was first given to the Banner Graphic, she said, "I was shocked and deeply saddened by the Facebook postings brought to my attention by a parent. This has been a very hurtful situation for parents and a very difficult situation for North Putnam Schools.

"The actions of a few have cast a shroud of negativity on the many dedicated and exemplary teachers at North Putnam who care deeply about their students. I apologize to the parents and children who have been hurt by the Facebook comments. We will work hard to restore the trust and confidence of our parents and community."

Lovejoy said in the release that Russell met with the teachers association and the corporation's administration and counsel before turning in her resignation letter. Lovejoy admitted in the release that the situation should have been handled differently and seclusion actions such as what Nathan went through were not part of his individualized education program, or IEP.

"I began my teaching career as a special education teacher. I have taught learning disabled, cognitively disabled and emotionally disabled children. I learned a great deal from my students; far more than they learned from me. A child should never be placed in seclusion, unless the action is discussed and agreed upon by the Case Conference Committee and written into the student's I.E.P. The child's parent(s) should be notified when a child is placed in seclusion. These steps were not taken, and they should have been," Lovejoy said in the release.

Lovejoy also stated that other staff members involved in these situations have received corrective action up to and including being placed on a corrective action plan.

Leigh Casto said she is glad to hear action was taken in this incident, but she still wishes to talk to the board to clear up a few concerns and ask a few more questions.

"I'm glad that she is acknowledging that there was a problem ... that the situation wasn't handled correctly," Casto said.

Summerlot said she will follow up on whatever else Casto would like and she hopes the healing can begin.

"I would think that this would be closed," Summerlot said of Russell's resignation. "That should settle it."

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  • She should have been fired, and NOT given the option to hand in her resignation. What she did was wrong, and just simply letting her resign is NOT good enough. Will she go to another school, and pull the same kind of stunt? It seems to me that allowing her to resign, and accepting that resignation just gives her the right to go elsewhere and do the same thing.

    -- Posted by churchmouse on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 1:32 PM
  • I say give her the job back. Gutsy

    -- Posted by GRNT on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 2:28 PM
  • I think the statement from Dr. LoveJoy is one of the first forthright, honest things I have heard from North Putnam about a mistake and area of weakness that needs attention. That will go far toward building a bridge with parents and corporation.

    However, Mr. Tippin's remarks in the last article were the opposite. He felt the school had done nothing wrong, and was even sorry that a "parent felt mistreated." Nothing about what happened or the child. All that was missing was him using the word "liar" during his interview. He re-victimized the family in order to protect his own lack of follow through. He should be ashamed.

    I feel the chasm between the middle school and parents is just as wide if not wider than before. It is sad that parents have to be this extreme to have the right thing happen. Even then, they are risking an attack to their credibility from the principal.

    The perfect end to this story (and sign of good faith from the superintendent and board) would be a public apology from Tippin to the child, parent, all parents, and all students for his inappropriate and untruthful interview, then his resignation. At that point, parents will believe that their children come first.

    -- Posted by NPNO on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 2:48 PM
  • Happy to see this teacher gone. However, what about the other teachers who posted comments on that same Facebook posting referring to dumb people. I feel they should get some sort of punishment as well!!!

    -- Posted by NPparent2 on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 5:53 PM
  • I agree with NPNO that Mr. Tippin owes parents and students an apology. Then he should turn in his resignation as well. If only people knew what all he has covered up for teachers in the middle school. You would be suprised. And this man wants to be our next superintendent??? School board please check into his records and see what all has been covered up. You will be facing a lawsuit one of these days if you don't.

    -- Posted by rickcall on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 6:20 PM
  • If you think things were covered up then come out with it. You obviously don't like Tippin so why not come out and say it? Probably because you have nothing and just want to sling some mud. Come on post your name and some information. Then you can get him fired or you get sued if you lied. You'll be a hero. Step up or don't comment.

    -- Posted by testmet on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 6:57 PM
  • Testmet is probably a buddy of Tippins. I agree a lot of things need resolved at this school. Starting with Tippins resignation.

    -- Posted by dcsaiht on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 8:44 PM
  • I would hate to see Mr. Tippin resign. There have been issues involving my children, and he's always been very prompt to handle them.

    -- Posted by CgrMom on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 9:27 PM
  • If you do not know what these teachers deal with daily then you shouldn't speak. I am in no way condoning what she posted. Does anyone know if she was talking about the students she teaches who truly need help or the parents of the students that are disorderly because they have no discipline in their homes and are sent to her class because they are disrupting the regular classes? Hmmm makes you wonder now huh?

    Children need to be disciplined at school in the form of paddling. If not they will continue to push the boundary lines until they run the schools and not the teachers(which by the way that is what is happening). My wife worked with this lady and she told me that she was one of the teachers that really try hard to advance these children, so it is hard for us to wrap our heads around her possibly saying something(if it was meant the way it was construed) so out of character for her.

    As for Mr. Tippin, after hearing stories day in and day out from my spouse, I think he should be fired and get someone in there who will put the children first and actually listen to the teachers, not just be a yes man.

    -- Posted by Combat Medic on Tue, Jun 7, 2011, at 11:47 PM
  • Parents need to watch where A. Russell applies for a job and let the schools/businesses know what she did. She took the easy way out, but needs to be watched closely by the parents from North Putnam so that she does not do this again. I hope the parents reported this to the superintendent of public schools in Indianapolis. just maybe he can do something about what is going on in North Putnam Schools.

    -- Posted by goodthoughts on Wed, Jun 8, 2011, at 5:34 AM
  • How do you know Tippin didn't want to fire either teacher? With a union involved, you can't just fire someone.

    -- Posted by testmet on Wed, Jun 8, 2011, at 6:53 AM
  • Agreeing to resign = Favorable reference for a future job

    -- Posted by nobody important on Wed, Jun 8, 2011, at 9:34 AM
  • If Tippin wanted to fire this teacher, he would have reported what she did to Lovejoy and Holsapple instead of keeping it quiet. Then he would have directed her to apologize before the parent had to fight for it.

    -- Posted by all4advocacy on Wed, Jun 8, 2011, at 10:03 AM
  • Combat...Special needs children do not need to be paddled. You can't handle every kid with aggression or any kid for that matter. Autistic children are wired differently than other kids. Paddling doesn't work. They need patience and a lot of it.

    -- Posted by citizenoftheworld on Wed, Jun 8, 2011, at 1:22 PM
  • most schools think only of themselves, if the teacher did wrong , Firing should be the only answer. Alot of schools only care about test scores not students.

    About dumb people , Look around, there are Alot of Dumb people.

    Parents should take an Active roll in their child. Iv'e heard alot of parents say" I'm a good parent" are they trying to tell us or themselves?

    If the teachers can't handle their job, Find a different job.

    -- Posted by carebuttonbroke on Wed, Jun 8, 2011, at 3:24 PM
  • Only an uneducated person would even think of striking a child. Paddling is child abuse.

    People do it because it was done to them. There is no defense for it.

    -- Posted by Foxridge on Thu, Jun 9, 2011, at 10:41 AM
  • I for one will say NP has kept teachers who did far worse on their own school computer. How quick we forget NP last teacher issue. She still works there. This teacher may have done wrong but no worse than the last one. If she had not left herself she would have ended up like the last one a slap on the wrist and all is better. If you all are up to getting this one let go then NP needs to let go all the teachers who have fell short in the past.

    Lets face it we all in our daily jobs report to someone and we all have rules. The normal person does lose their job when misconduct has happened. Teachers have a union that saves them, or did. That why we say goodbye to tenure. With this it takes too long to get rid of a bad teacher. NP has the issue a lot of small schools do to many teachers were students there at one time or another. Lets go back to the rule you can not teach at the school district you live in!!!! I for one feel all the local schools need to get new outside blood in their schools.

    -- Posted by motherthatwantswhatbest on Thu, Jun 9, 2011, at 11:14 AM
  • Who cares for what a teacher posts on facebook? You guys are acting too dramatic about the facebook thing...the part about the student being put in a closet should be the main focus. GROW UP.

    -- Posted by Apollo13 on Thu, Jun 9, 2011, at 1:54 PM
  • Foxridge , paddling has been done for years , matter a fact If I was a betting person , ur grand parents era kids were paddled. Since paddling was called Abuse, our children have been running the schools knowing Nothing will be done. Bet you think raising your voice is Abuse too.

    placing a child in a closet is abuse .

    comments on facebook , Says "what on your mind."

    sure a correctional officer and people in law enforcement LOVE Dumb people and it is Job Security. Now Fire me!

    -- Posted by carebuttonbroke on Thu, Jun 9, 2011, at 3:42 PM
  • Now who's the luntic?

    -- Posted by obeone on Fri, Jun 10, 2011, at 7:43 AM
  • I agree with the statement that we should focus more on the situation involving the closet and not on facebook. The first amendment is going to protect whatever she writes and the only way they could fire her for that is if she used a computer or school time to make the postings and they had rules against it.

    The school I went to expelled a young man whose parents sued the school b/c the expulsion ruined his b-ball scholarship chances. The school survived the lawsuit because the student knew the rules when he chose to disregard them.

    -- Posted by sendmailthere on Sat, Jun 11, 2011, at 11:35 AM
  • Schools are given TO MUCH power.

    -- Posted by carebuttonbroke on Wed, Jun 15, 2011, at 11:37 AM
  • Too much is expected from the schools. Public school should be a place where learning is possible, not mandated to the teachers to try and deal with unruly, undisciplined, or disinterested children. If my child doesn't make an A, we find out what he is not understanding, not blame the teacher for not doing her job. They still use textbooks, kids need to do more independent study instead of blaming the school system. Teachers shouldn't even have to deal with trouble making students. If they want to stay in school, obey the teacher's rules...if not, stay home. This rant of mine is not intended to encompass the special needs children. I understand that there are disabilities which require extra support, and it really has nothing to do with this article. More of just a response to some of the other comments. Everyone enjoy their day!

    -- Posted by almostfootballfree on Wed, Jun 15, 2011, at 2:16 PM
  • almostfootballfree , do you really Believe your comment? if so not sure where that perfect school is. not sure what school you are talking about, now days Schools think about Test scores and not children. Problem children are to be dealt with and not passes to anyone else. Yes parents should be parents. Teachers are human and they choose their job.

    you say:

    Teachers shouldn't even have to deal with trouble making students. If they want to stay in school, obey the teacher's rules...if not, stay home.

    I say : if Teacher dont like all kinds of children even so called trouble makers, Get a different job. not just schools are to blame , parents and the govt is also to blame.

    -- Posted by carebuttonbroke on Thu, Jun 16, 2011, at 9:04 PM
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