LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reader outraged, sad over our position on Blackhawk Middle School teacher

As a recently retired Fort Wayne area public school world languages teacher, I read with sadness and “outrage” (to use your published word) the article that appeared in the “Our Voice” column about a recent unfortunate event in a Spanish classroom at Blackhawk Middle School.

I was sad to see a teacher’s momentary lack of clear planning be labeled in The News-Sentinel as “bullying.” Bullying is an emotionally charged buzzword that resonates differently to different people. To label any action as bullying should require a careful look at an institution’s definition of that offense. FWCS’s own definition of (student to student) bullying mentions “… the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate, or harm the targeted student and create for the targeted student an objectively hostile school environment.”

Nothing in your column or in other sources mentions Mrs. Ford’s intent. Without intent, there is no bullying. An uncomfortable situation that could have been rectified without so much adverse publicity, yes, but bullying is a label that simply does not apply to the events as reported.

I was outraged that the student, his father, and FWCS were all quoted in the paper’s opinion column, but no voice seems to have been provided for the teacher. Fairness demands that she should have been contacted. If she declined to comment, note of that should have been made in the editorial.

“We hope that Ford’s apology was sincere” implies that you doubt that it was “and that she will not repeat such conduct in her teaching role” makes one suspect that you think her incapable of learning from this sad instance. On the surface, your hope seems unfair and prejudicial.

I know of no full-time, experienced, public school teacher who would not privately admit to saying something in the classroom that (s)he later regretted. Mrs. Ford apologized in the arena in which she made her mistake. Such a shame (“outrage” might be a preferable word) that the matter could not have been settled there.

— Nancy S. Rodgers, Fort Wayne

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