Let’s analyze two sets of extremely controversial statements recently released by two female educators here in the state of Texas.
First, in videos that can be found on the Internet, one female educator makes a statement concerning Muslims that goes, “I am so sick of the bacon-haters coming here and demanding that we bend to their culture – no.”
Later, on in the same video, the same female educator tells Muslim leaders to “f— off,” and proceeds to grab her breasts and jiggle them at the camera in jest.
In another video, featuring the very same female educator, she states, “We have to remember, the Democrats own the ghettos. The Democrats own food stamps. The Democrats own Section 8. The Democrats own welfare.”
Now concerning the other female educator, she decided to express herself on Twitter concerning the murder of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, by making the statement, “Who the f— made you dumb a– crackers think I give a squat f— about your opinions re: #Ferguson? Kill yourselves.”
If you are following the story, it is important to note that both educators reside in Texas and both used their First Amendment right to express themselves, although through different means. However, when it came to the response to both teachers, they were treated entirely different.
When you’re the Black female educator in Texas, you get fired with cause by your school district, even after you have apologized and sought to resign from your position to avoid further conflict. When you’re the White female, you not only get to keep your job, but you refuse to apologize and get unwavering support for your First Amendment rights according to the Constitution from the superintendent and school board of your district.
For clarity’s sake – the White female educator, Angela Box, teaches third-graders at Ray Daily Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District (HISD), and still is on the job. The Black female educator, Vinita Hegwood, taught for 20 years as an English teacher at Duncanville High School, before being fired by the Duncanville ISD school board last Friday.
On November 7th, Hegwood sent her controversial tweet from her personal Twitter account, where she referred to the polarizing issue in Ferguson relative to African American teenager Michael Brown being killed by White police officer Darren Wilson.
After her tweet went viral, she was accused of being racist and the Duncanville Independent School District was made aware of it. Hegwood was immediately suspended without pay and decided to resign. She announced in a statement through the Texas American Federation of Teachers that she was resigning, in addition to sending out a written apology for her tweet.
In spite of her efforts to address the issue personally, the Duncanville ISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted to fire her and terminate her contract.
Concerning Box, not only is she a third-grade school teacher for HISD, she also appears on a weekly public access conservative talk show called “Tommy’s Garage,” where she is seen on video making extremely prejudicial and bigoted remarks on a regular basis.
Box is a regular contributor on the show, where she freely expresses her dislike for President Barack Obama, people receiving government assistance and her views on the Muslim faith.
Many parents, teachers and community leaders have called on Box to resign from her teaching role at Daily Elementary, because of her role as a teacher and ability to influence children with her way of thinking. She refuses to resign and is adamantly standing up for her right to express herself freely, regardless of who it offends.
“You may not agree with me,” said Box. “That’s cool. That’s your right, but it’s my right to be able to say what I believe.”
Interestingly, unlike the Duncanville ISD Board of Trustees response to Vinita Hegwood, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier and the HISD school board agree with Angela Box and are unwilling to have her removed from the classroom.
“We don’t agree with the video. We don’t agree with her reaction on the video,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. “But attorneys tell us it’s a first amendment right, and as long as it stays out of the schools, we’re going to treat it as such.”
Community activist Quanell X held a press conference at Daily Elementary this past Friday, where he called for Box to be fired from her teaching job immediately because of her rhetoric.
“All you have to do is look at the videos and you will see and hear Angela Box spew her vile and bigoted rhetoric about the very people she is responsible for educating,” says Quanell X. “How can this woman be trusted to properly educate Black children, Hispanic children and Muslim children, when she has such a negative and harsh world-view of them?”
Quanell X expressed his disappointment with HISD Superintendent Grier’s response to the situation and he believes that his failure to take action against Box is not surprising because of Grier’s past actions and dealings with select communities in Houston.
The freedom of speech argument should be applicable for both Box and Hegwood, but Box continues on her job with no repercussions and Hegwood is out of a job completely.
“A person has a right to be offensive, so the first amendment does protect her speech, but it does not protect her actions,” said local attorney and activist Jolanda Jones.
Even if one would argue in support of Box and her ability to express herself the way she does, it would be important to recognize the overall dynamics of who she is responsible for teaching and providing guidance to on a daily basis in her third-grade classroom. Daily Elementary, the HISD where Box is employed, is a minority-majority school. Daily Elementary has a student population made up of roughly 30 percent African American students and 38 percent Hispanic students. Even more telling is the fact that over one-half of the students at the school are economically disadvantaged. These are all students that fall into the demographics that Box has expressed her controversial views about on her weekly T.V. program.
HISD officials have stated that they are aware of the concerns that have been expressed by the parents, teachers and community leaders and have promised to monitor the situation.
“Our focus at Daily Elementary School continues to be making sure students feel safe and maintaining an instructional environment in which they can learn,” HISD said in a statement. “We respect the First Amendment and the rights of employees and community members, and will continue to monitor the situation.”
It is unclear whether Hegwood plans to sue Duncanville ISD, but the Houston Forward Times (HFT) will be paying close attention to how HISD plans to respond to the handling of one of their own controversial White educators in Texas, versus the response rendered by Duncanville ISD officials concerning Hegwood, a Black educator in Texas. Stay tuned!