Texas teacher ‘suspended without pay pending discharge’ after racist Ferguson tweet
(CNN) — A Texas teacher has been “suspended without pay pending discharge” after accusations that she sent racially charged tweets about the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, a representative for the Duncanville Independent School District said at a press conference.
Vinita Hegwood, a high school English teacher at Duncanville High School near Dallas, allegedly sent the tweets from her personal Twitter account Friday.
“Who the (expletive) made you dumb (expletive) crackers think I give a squat (expletive) about your opinions. #Ferguson Kill yourselves,” read one of the messages.
Later that evening another tweet appeared, saying, “You exhibit nigga behavior, I’m a call you a nigga. You acting crackerish, I’m a call you a cracker.” Hegwood is African-American.
It’s not clear exactly to what or whom she was referring, but the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have often hinged on race, as Michael Brown was a black teen killed by Officer Darren Wilson, a white policeman. A grand jury is expected to decide soon whether Wilson will face charges.
Hegwood is in her second year at Duncanville High School, where she maintained a website for her students, www.englishandelephants.com.
The Twitter account from which she allegedly made the comments has since been taken down. Hegwood did not immediately respond to CNN’s calls and emails seeking comment.
Lari Barager, Duncanville Independent School District spokeswoman, called the messages “offensive” and “reprehensible” and stressed the tweets do not represent the 240 other teachers at Duncanville High School.
The swiftness and severity with which administrators acted demonstrate how seriously they view the incident, Barager said. It’s rare to be suspended without pay, the fullest disciplinary action allowed under district policy, she said.
Hegwood began meeting with administrators Monday at 7:15 a.m. By 8:30 a.m., “there was a conclusion and this decision had been made,” Barager said.
District employees do have the right to free speech, Barager said, but Hegwood’s comments were so egregious, the school was left with “no other option.”
The board of trustees for the school district will decide Hegwood’s fate at its next meeting on December 8.
Hegwood’s tweets are the latest example of the percolating tensions and controversy that have spread beyond the Ferguson city limits in the aftermath of the Brown shooting.
In September, Ralph Weems, a Marine and Iraq war veteran, was severely beaten in a Mississippi restaurant parking lot. Weems, who is white, allegedly left a Waffle House after he was told it wasn’t safe there for white people because patrons inside were upset about the Ferguson situation.
Weems left and was apparently followed to a Huddle House, where he was attacked. He continues to recover, but struggles with long-term memory loss, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for his medical expenses.
In another incident, the Missouri State University newspaper staff printed racially charged language on the cover of its paper following a black equality protest two weeks before the school’s October homecoming game.
The quotes, which included the f-word and racial slurs that were hurled at the protesters and “Go back to Ferguson!” were allegedly shouted to protesters by other students. The staff said it wanted to highlight the abuse the protesters received.
Also, a mother and daughter were arrested during another October protest at a St. Louis Rams football game after allegedly spitting on and punching fans during a clash.