Parents Infuriated Over Teacher’s Facebook Comment

BRADENTON, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) — Parents are infuriated over a Florida school district’s decision to issue only a verbal warning to a teacher who described a student as the “evolutionary link between orangutans and humans” on Facebook.

Music teacher Lauren Orban at Rogers Garden Elementary School in Bradenton, about 45 miles south of Tampa, made the comment in a Facebook conversation that included two other teachers from the school in May. She identified the 8-year-old boy by his initials while posting on the social networking site.

The principal was alerted and, after reviewing Orban’s record and discussing the matter with other school leaders, issued a verbal reprimand to all three teachers, district spokeswoman Margi Nanney said. They were also given a copy of the district’s rules of ethics.

On Tuesday, the child’s mother and her attorneys criticized the Manatee County School District for not taking tougher action. They said the district’s response is a “mere slap on the wrist.”

“At minimum, the teacher should be suspended without pay,” attorney Sasha Watson said, the Bradenton Herald reported.

Because Orban was issued a verbal warning, the information does not go in to her personnel file. School district Superintendent Tim McGonegal said he believed the principal, who knows the community, students and teachers, was in the best position to decide what action to take, and that for legal reasons, he could not supersede it.

The teacher has been in the district for two years and had a good record prior to the comment, Nanney said.

“It was an egregious mistake,” she said.

McGonegal has provided information about Orban’s conduct to the state Department of Education. Officials could decide whether or not to revoke her teaching license. For now, however, she is expected to be teaching at the start of the next school year.

Parents are planning to protest outside the school on Wednesday.

“We’re outraged,” Rodney Jones, a member of the Manatee County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and father of a third-grade student at the school, according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune. “No student should be called something like that, especially a black student.”

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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