Blogging Teacher May Be Out of a Job

Natalie Munroe's lawyer said the Central Bucks School District is expected to recommend firing her at a school board meeting on June 26.

EASTERN PA -- When Natalie Munroe was reinstated to her Central Bucks East High School classroom last fall, her lawyer speculated that the English teacher was being set up to fail.

Now, as the school year draws to a close, both Munroe and her attorney, Steven L. Rovner, say they have been proven right.

Rovner said Tuesday that Central Bucks administrators are expected to recommend firing Munroe, whose online comments about her students included "A complete and utter jerk in all ways," "Lazy a--hole," and "There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid."

Her blog posts led to a national firestorm about both student behavior and online speech.

Rovner, who lives in Northampton Township and has an office in Feasterville, said Tuesday that the school district is expected to move to terminate Munroe at the school board meeting on June 26.

"Unfortunately, what I predicted came true, in that Central Bucks was setting Natalie up for failure," Rovner said in an email Tuesday to Doylestown Patch. "They have spent the past year creating an impossible work place, one that would, after the fact, artificially and falsely supports a determination for termination."

Natalie Munroe and her husband, Brian, who live in Warminster, at first declined to comment further on Tuesday.

Brian Munroe, who is running for state representative in Pennsylvania's 29th district against incumbent Republican Bernie O'Neill, said his campaign may make a statement in the next few days.

But within hours, Natalie Munroe had posted a statement on her blog.

"In short, yes, I've been set up," Munroe wrote Tuesday night. "For now, that's all I'm going to say about it."

"I've always been the kind of person who stands up for what I believe in, but the importance of doing so has been reinforced these past 16 months," Munroe continued, adding, "We cannot back down just because someone makes something harder for us in an effort to shut us up. We cannot go with the flow just because it's easier not to make ripples. We can't be complacent or we're part of the problem. Instead, we have to be part of the solution."

Keith Sinn, outgoing president of the Central Bucks teachers' union, declined to comment, saying he could not publicly discuss personnel issues.

Rovner said he and attorney Stanley Cheiken plan to sue the school district,  asserting that officials violated Munroe's constitutional rights, including freedom of speech.

Many in the Central Bucks community had called for Munroe's firing after her blog came to light in February 2011. The district suspended her, and she remained out on maternity leave while administrators and the school board deliberated.

"Ms. Munroe, by her own actions, has made it impossible for her to teach in this district," Superintendent N. Robert Laws said during a school board meeting in February 2011. "No students should be subjected to such a hostile educational environment."

But the district ultimately decided not to try to dismiss her at that time.

Munroe returned to the Buckingham Township high school last fall, albeit to fewer students than usual - 12, 15, and 7 students in her fall classes, as she reported on her blog.

For the first time anyone could remember, Central Bucks administrators honored parents' requests to keep their children out of Munroe's classes.

"When the district had no legal grounds to fire me in the wake of Bloggate 2011, they tried to make me superfluous by encouraging students and their parents to opt out of my classes," she wrote on her blog in a post published Oct. 17, 2011.


Rating Public Teachers


In Central Bucks, as in other public schools across Pennsylvania, teachers can be recommended for termination if they have received two unsatisfactory ratings during performance reviews.

Those reviews must be conducted four months apart. After the first unsatisfactory finding, a teacher is supposed to work with a mentor or administrator to improve performance.

If the second review also ends with an unsatisfactory rating, the teacher then can be recommended for termination.

It's not clear yet whether Munroe's evaluations this year ended with an "unsatisfactory" rating. Rovner's statement did not address the evaluations, and the school district has not disclosed them.

In a post published on July 19, 2011, Munroe took aim at the newly negotiated Central Bucks teachers' contract. One problem, she wrote, "was the proviso that teachers' salaries will be frozen if they receive an 'unsatisfactory' on their annual evaluations, and that two 'unsatisfactory' ratings result in termination."

"It seems like an awfully easy way to save money if there's a district shortfall, or to get rid of teachers who are at the top of the pay scale (or who are thorns in the district's sides)," she wrote. "After all, these evaluations are pretty subjective. I do not doubt that it would happen."

Rovner said Tuesday he believes Munroe is being fired for her blog posts.

"This action of the district is a direct result of Natalie exercising her First Amendment constitutional rights to free speech in the past, and is retaliatory for the past," he wrote. "What Natalie wrote in her blog was not in violation of any Central Bucks policy, and it was protected speech under the law and not actionable."


The Teacher's Blog


Natalie Munroe has been a teacher at CB East, one of the top high schools in Pennsylvania, since 2006.

She never identified herself or her school in her blog, entitled “Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket.” Most of her posts were about her life, her friends, her daughter, and her pregnancy with her second child, who was subsequently born during the controversy over her blog posts.

But her blog carried her photo, and the name Natalie M.

She wrote about her colleagues and her life at the high school where, among other classes, she taught Honors English. She said she had taken to eating lunch alone because of conflicts with her colleagues.

But it was a post about her students that propelled the Warminster woman to notoriety.

She wrote about the frustration of having to choose “canned” comments to put on her students’ report cards and suggested alternatives, including:

  • “A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.”
  • “One of the few students I can abide this semester!”
  • “Has no business being in Academic.”
  • “Lazy a--hole.”
  • “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”
  • “Weirdest kid I’ve ever met.”
  • “I hear the trash company is hiring…”
  • “There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.”

It ended with, “Thus, the old adage…if you don’t have anything nice to say…say 'cooperative in class.'"

A piece of clip art that accompanied the post particularly enraged disability advocates and Central Bucks school board members and administrators.

It depicted a special-needs school bus and read, “I don’t care if you lick windows, take the special bus, or occasionally pee on yourself, you hang in there sunshine, you’re friggin’ special.”


Catching Fire


The post was from 2010, but in February 2011, Munroe’s blog was discovered, and students and parents soon emailed the link across cyberspace. They flooded CB East principal Abe Lucabaugh's office with angry phone calls.

Some students used the occasion to lash back at Munroe, calling her vulgar names, as well as the "worst teacher I ever had."

The story quickly went very, very public, from local news outlets to CNN, MSNBC and the BBC.

Competing Facebook pages were launched, supporting or bashing Munroe. An MSNBC poll garnered nearly 84,000 votes, 97% of whom voted that Munroe should not be suspended - though school district administrators and board members pointed out that the national media reported only Munroe's less inflammatory comments about students.

Rovner said support poured in from around the globe.

"Her comments opened up discussion and debate about the state of education in our country," he said, "and about problems in our classrooms where educators are afraid to voice their opinions."

When Munroe published her blog, Central Bucks had no specific policies about what its employees could do or say online.

That changed in September, when . One included a restriction on making disparaging remarks about students.

Laws, the superintendent, said then that language had "not been part of the original policy because the thinking was it wasn’t necessary. Now we know that it is."

Officially called the "Electronic Communications and Social Media/Networking" policy and the "Freedom of Speech in Nonschool Settings" policy, some took to calling them the Munroe Doctrine.


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EJ June 06, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Dear Natalie, Constructive comments are always welcomed by parents. Destructive ones and ones out of emotion and frustration do not help the situation. Comments like, “Lazy asshole.” “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?", are not at all helpful and only serve to create a bad environment. Parents and Teachers alike are never served well by these attitudes. I had a great Teacher (many actually) who taught for over 30 years, retired my senior year. He never degraded any student, nor did he candy coat the facts. "John needs to work harder. I recommend we meet to discuss his performance." That yielded a better out come. If my children ever spoke as you do, we would be have serious discussion about their attitude and approach. I wish you the best of luck in life.
Jeff Lugar June 06, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Let's face it, it is pretty convenient that a school year's gone by and then suddenly the administrators have a reason to terminate her. If she wasn't unsatisfactory beforehand, it's hard to believe she simply became unsatisfactory overnight.
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I don't think she should be surprised by her possible firing. If anything, she should have been fired long ago. How can we trust her to teach our kids when she's badmouthing them - in a humiliating fashion no less - for all to see? If she hates her job that much, she should just do everyone a favor and quit. It's also ridiculous that taxpayers are paying her salary for classes with 7, 12 and 15 students. Total waste of money.
bill murphy June 06, 2012 at 02:34 PM
True, however if students are pulling out of her class then she has become ineffective as a teacher and that is unsatisfactory in itself and she should be removed. Use that money to hire another teacher because right now she is a waste of money.
probablytired June 06, 2012 at 03:05 PM
This creature has no business passing herself off as a 'teacher.' She doesn't know the meaning of the word and if she's that frustrated and unhappy with her job, QUIT! It's hard enough being a kid in today's system and it's not easy being a parent either. While I certainly don't believe in allowing children to get away with not applying themselves, problems don't need to be compounded by a bitter, angry and unfulfilled woman who thinks that she's that much more special than any of the students. Seriously!!! If you really want to be part of the solution instead of the monumental problem, approach kids and parents differently. There are only two ways to deal with human beings in this world Ms. Munroe and only two ways; pull up or push down. Be careful which one you choose because while you may not think any child is special, the truth is that each and every one of those students you debased and humiliated, have talents and abilities far beyond what you are capable of. People like you make me sick.
J Parker June 06, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Get Lost , you have no business wasting my tax money pretending to do a job you obviously don't like and aren't fit for, you're disgusting , and disgraceful, good riddence, and shame on you trying to hide behind freedom of speech.
J Parker June 06, 2012 at 04:29 PM
It's not suddenly, need two reviews 4 months apart that takes almost the whole school year, maybe you had her as a teacher and that's why you can't comprehend what you just read. Duh!
David Woods June 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM
What if a respected Teacher of the Year type said some of these things? Wouldn't that be free speech? Aren't some kids just terminally apathetic and unwilling to learn? Some of the things she said are humorous because they're true. If she's a bad teacher, so be it. Get her out. But I'd wager the 'super' teachers say a lot of these same comments under their breathe.
ron shank June 06, 2012 at 06:19 PM
since when do kids get to pick there teachers ?
joanne0503 June 06, 2012 at 07:06 PM
If she felt that strongly about her students then teaching that class was not the job for her...and you certainly don't blog about it for all to see. I'm sure there are kids who are disrespectful & hard to handle but there are other ways to deal with it. Not sure why she was allowed back only to be terminated??? Very disappointed that my tax dollars are spent toward this....
EJ June 06, 2012 at 07:49 PM
It is one thing to think it, but another to say it, and yet even worse to put it in writing. The internet is forever, as we tell our kids. I know many people have a quick emotional reaction to things. Keep it private, govern yourself accordingly.
EJ June 06, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Parents get to refuse a teacher who is questionable or a potential problem. Not the kids.
Miriam Plack June 06, 2012 at 11:50 PM
I was in the middle until the last paragraph about "special kids". If you have no more compassion than that, you are in the wrong field.
Kathleen Ramunni June 07, 2012 at 12:15 AM
This is totally appalling. Obviously this woman chose the wrong profession. She has a problem with other teachers, she has a problem with her students...sounds like she is the problem.
KM June 07, 2012 at 12:25 AM
After reading all the comments from both sides here, my opinion is Ms. Munroe had no noble intent to "open up conversation and to bring to light the state of education in our country". She thought she was being clever and funny with her comments, probably intended to entertain her friends and family members. I believe she NEVER intended for anyone associated with her employment...her students..her colleagues..her employers to see her blog. Unfortunately for her...it backfired..and EVERYONE saw it. Instead of sucking it up and admitting her comments were rude, undignified for a teacher, and in very poor taste, she was encouraged by her lawyer to come up with this rediculous, altruistic story. The bottom line is, we are all accountable for our actions. She publicly embarrassed her employer, her students, and herself. She should pay the price for her poor actions.
Jeff Lugar June 07, 2012 at 10:34 AM
Yes, it is "suddenly". She went how many years being a satisfactory teacher, but now after the blog controversy she's called unsatisfactory? It's a bit convenient (if that is indeed the reason for a recommendation for termination).
Eric June 07, 2012 at 01:37 PM
First, how can she say she was set up? Everything I read leans toward her creating a hostile work environment. The first signs should have been her blogging about co-workers and taking to eating lunch alone because of conflicts with co-workers. I mean sure, we all have disagreements but in order to stay employed and professional, most of us find a way to get past it or leave. Second, in her favor, the article does not say whether or not she named to students outright or if her statements had an implied meaning. Her past teaching success is now a moot issue. For all of her "satisfactory" years of service are now meaningless. As in any business, people are much more likely to remember the negatives or the scandal/s that you may have been involved in. I certainly would not want my child in this woman's classroom.
Bettina June 07, 2012 at 04:44 PM
oh Dear Lord....leave this woman alone...she aptly expressed how a lot of kids are today...we need to cheer her on. Kids have been too cuddled and protected. I have to listen to their idiotic and foul language on the streets of Doylestown. Enough. Lots of kids are lazy, spoiled a-holes. Amen.
Pamela June 07, 2012 at 05:16 PM
1) students were pulled by their parents because they didn't like the teacher personally, NOT because of her teaching abilities. WOW wish my mom could pull me from life so I didn't have to deal with people I don't like. Nice lessons to teach your child. 2) She didn't actually write non constructive comments to parents on report cards. She only stated she wished she could. Let's face it, some children ARE NOT perfect, nice, nor the brightest crayon in the box. Accept it and get over it. 3) Freedom of speech and as long she doesn't specifically mention anyone by name, the school administration, co-workers, board, and parents have no right to say anything as long as it is done on her OWN TIME. Don't like it? MOVE to a communist country.
Bettina June 07, 2012 at 08:11 PM
1) I agree....kids are too cuddled. 2) She has freedom of speech as we all do...she was on her blog...did not mention students by name. And you're right....many kids are not the brightest crayon in the box. 3) I agree....for those who can't face the truth about their kids...leave this town, or state, or country. Go look for greener pastures elsewhere.
bill murphy June 07, 2012 at 10:23 PM
If she worked in the private sector and posted these things online about coworkers or clients this wouldn't even be a discussion she would be terminated and probably unable to even collect unemployment. Pamela It isn't communism its called respect of your profession and if you don't have any then the company you work for can and will terminate you.
Mike G. June 07, 2012 at 11:57 PM
While I understand your position on the current "problems" with today's youth. My problem with this teacher is that if she is so disenchanted with her students, why is she voluntarily in the profession? No one is forcing her to come to work each day if she is so miserable. Anyone who feels like this about teaching should not be in the profession. As she so eloquently described her displeasure with her current situation two years ago, she forgot one thing, she always has had the option to leave. I understand she "loves" teaching, but anyone who truly loves their job wouldn't need to resort to a blog like this to express their "love". I believe the district is doing her a favor by putting her out of her misery.
Mary191 June 08, 2012 at 04:05 AM
There are so many wonderful teachers in CB... too bad this misfit woman embarrasses the teaching profession. If she had any self-respect, intelligence... she would just quietly leave.... her remarks are shameful for her to make.
cypherpunk June 17, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Maybe you guys should read her original blog posts and then make a more informed judgement: http://www.smallfiles.org/download/853/nataliemunroe_blog.zip.html
Concerned Bystander July 11, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Pamela, First, she is not a good teacher. Two of my children had her years ago and as with many students/parents all over this country you just "suck it up" till the end of the marking period as we all have had bad teachers. Secondly, you are correct some kids are not perfect ... no kidding. Lastly, give me a break with the Freedom of Speech angle. N. Munroe may not have intended her blog to be seen by all but she didn't do a good job hiding it as her picture was posted on the home page along with a link to her school classroom website. So in affect, she did mention her employer, students and colleagues. It's a shame the national media has painted her as some sort of hero. Trust me, she is anything but and should never be around children again. In fact, I feel sorry for her own kids.


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