A recent text allegedly sent by Marshall School Principal Bonita Samuels is causing a furor in the Marshall/Jefferson school community in Maplewood and South Orange.
According to multiple sources including a parent, Samuels allegedly sent a staff member or some staff members a picture of a new student teacher who is a little person, possibly with a caption mocking the teacher’s size.
An email notification from the school district confirmed the existence of the text, but did not identify Samuels as the author of the text. The district email also reported the text was sent to one, not multiple, people, and did not mention a caption.
The parent also reported that Samuels held a staff meeting accompanied by her union representative and asked the staff to speak up if any of them had any grievances regarding the photo and text. According to the parent, no teachers spoke up.
Samuels also allegedly called teachers individually into her office to ask about their reaction to the photo.
Village Green has reached out to Samuels for comment and has asked the district for further details.
The letter from the district reads in full:
In late December, a staff member took an insensitive and unprofessional photo of another staff member and texted it to a colleague. This incident was an example of the damage that can occur when someone tries to be humorous at another person’s expense.
The Board and District take this incident quite seriously. However, administrators and Board of Education members are not permitted to publicly discuss personnel matters, including what, if any, discipline a specific staff member receives for any action. In addition, we must navigate and respect not only confidentially rights related to employees, but also the privacy rights of other parties to a situation.
We can assure you that the District and the Board are fully committed to the rights of all members of our school community to be able to participate fully in our collective work, free of bias, intolerance, or other inappropriate conduct.
We are also reminding staff in all of our schools to make sure all of our communications with students, families and each other reflect our commitment to inclusivity and the cultural competency training that we have received.
Village Green will continue to follow this story.