One teacher at Everett High School is being looked at for some social media posts he allegedly made on his Twitter account during the protests and looting earlier this month, at one point allegedly calling on President Trump to call in the U.S. Marines and shoot to kill.
Robert LeGrow has been a teacher at Everett High School (EHS) for the last seven years without incident, but students and former students at the high school who conducted a peaceful, youth-led protest on June 7 felt the Tweets were targeting them. A group that spoke with the Independent said they had been at protests in Boston, and felt the Tweets were advocating violence against them, in principle.
“It’s not political, but just plain disgusting,” said Senior Amera Lila, editor-in-chief of the Crimson Times newspaper. “A lot of people from our school went to the Boston protest. It doesn’t mean it’s private when you post it on the personal Twitter account. We found it, so really anyone can find it.”
Supt. Priya Tahiliani said she could not comment on the matter, but that the School Department has worked with both local authorities and their attorneys to determine suitable next steps in the matter.
Neither LeGrow or the Everett Teachers Association (ETA) returned an e-mail with comment by press time.
The Tweets were on a personal account, not an official account of the Everett Public Schools, but it was also a public account and accessible for any student to see.
Some of the Tweets are purely political speech in support of President Donald Trump or in support of him putting an end to the rioting.
Others, however, are a little more on the edge – such as when the president was contemplating sending the military in to stop the protests.
In one Tweet he allegedly compared the protesters to 1990s anti-government domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh – who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City with a fertilizer bomb.
In another, he allegedly wrote, “Get on tv. Declare that you have intelligence that this is not about George Floyd but instead That this is insurrection by anti American leftist forces. You consider this an act of war. Declare martial law and send in the (expletive deleted) marines with shoot to kill orders. NOW,” read one of the Tweets about rioting in New York City.
And another when President Trump was taken into the White House bunker during May 31 rioting, “This is war. Kill the enemy.”
Fabrice Jacques, a senior at EHS who is headed to Vanderbilt University, said he helped to plan the peaceful vigil at Glendale Park on June 7. He said Tweets like what was posted made him think that maybe a teacher at his own school was calling for the military to kill him.
“I agree with Freedom of Speech, but if you’re going to be racist when you practice your Freedom of Speech, you should be able to face the consequences,” he said. “I was an organizer of the vigil at Glendale Park. Just to think a teacher at our school felt so strong he wanted to people shot and I am one of those protestors organizing our vigil, it is very disheartening.”
Lila said she felt that it would be nearly impossible for any student – particularly given the demographics of Everett’s current school system – to feel comfortable in a class run by LeGrow.
“You really can’t feel comfortable in a learning environment,” she said. “It’s not just Mr. LeGrow, but it’s a lot of teachers. It’s embedded at EHS with a lot of teachers. I know so many juniors that went to the protest in Boston and it was so peaceful.
All the students talked to said the district needed to do a better job of hiring more teachers and administrators of color – and said they were encouraged by the hiring of a woman of color in Supt. Tahiliani.
“The more we bring in people like Mrs. Tahiliani, the better,” said Lila. “Mr. Foresteire (the former superintendent), I don’t think, would have ever stepped in and said anything about this…I hope they do something because the silence is only allowing it. You don’t say something like that publicly on social media and have nothing happen.”
Said Jacques, “We have five teachers of color at Everett High. It’s not enough and we can’t expect those five to have to deal with everything like this and putting things like this on them.”
He said that several students, including himself, have scheduled a meeting with the superintendent to talk about these issues and to help lead her new initiative on race, equity and bias in the Everett Public Schools.
That will be something that addresses social media amongst employees – whether personal accounts or official accounts – and how that reflects on the school system. Right now there is no official policy to address social media specifically, and there are a great deal of protections under the 5th Amendment for employees and speech. However, the Employee Handbook, which every employee must consent to, has some outlines of proper conduct.
Some of the potentially applicable points in the Handbook include:
•To make a constructive effort to protect the student from conditions that jeopardize the student’s health, safety and well-being, and from conditions that are detrimental to the learning process.
•To treat each student in a fair and equitable manner, in accordance with school policies and applicable laws.
•To refrain from bullying, intimidating or embarrassing students through threats, sarcasm and ridicule.
•To treat each other in a courteous and respectful manner in all of their dealings with others.
•To refrain from fighting or using obscene, abusive, or threatening language or gestures.
•To strive to understand and respect the values and traditions of the diverse cultures represented in the Everett Public Schools and the community.
School officials, once again, said they were limited in being able to speak about the situation or any action or outcomes that would come from it.