Shelly Conlon, Waco Trib, August 30, 2016
The Waco Independent School District hired a teacher fired in 2015 from Frenship ISD after making racist remarks on social media about segregation.
The remarks by the teacher, Karen Fitzgibbons, were in response to a McKinney police officer’s resignation after a dispute at a swimming pool where video showed the officer wrestle a black girl to the ground. Fitzgibbons in her Facebook post suggested she might support segregation “so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone.”
Fitzgibbons was hired in July as a third-grade elementary school teacher for this academic year at Hillcrest Professional Development School, according to the district.
Though Waco ISD officials say Fitzgibbons was honest and upfront about her previous firing over the racially motivated post, they said the district did not know the full details of the social media post until it was brought to their attention about a month later.
The district learned of the contents of Fitzgibbons’ post on Aug. 16, the day before Meet-the-Teacher night and after hiring interviews, district spokesman Bruce Gietzen said in a press conference Monday afternoon, though he did not say exactly how the district learned of specifics.
“We were aware that Ms. Fitzgibbons applied for a job with the district and was completely truthful on that application, and told us she resigned in lieu of termination of another district because of an inappropriate post she made on Facebook that had racial implications,” Gietzen said, adding her previous employers said they were surprised by her Facebook post. “Once the administration learned the contents of that Facebook post, we took immediate action.”
A Google search of Fitzgibbons’ name returns several pages of results related to the post and her subsequent termination at Frenship ISD.
Waco ISD’s administration removed Fitzgibbons from campus and reassigned her to a nonteaching position in the administration building, Gietzen said, adding that Fitzgibbons has a good record, other than the Facebook post, and more than a decade’s worth of experience in education.
“She stated remorse for what she did then and stated the same thing to us,” Gietzen said, adding that Fitzgibbons interviewed with a number of districts throughout the state. “All she wants to do is teach again, but that’s not going to happen in Waco ISD.”
Fitzgibbons’ post sparked a national debate about racial tensions across the U.S.
In her post, she stated: “I’m going to just go ahead and say it . . . the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.’ I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin….GO! #imnotracist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity.”
Fitzgibbons will be given sensitivity training by the district during her term and won’t have access to social media while at work.
Because she was truthful when the contract was signed and the district simply didn’t know all the details from the post, legally the district is obligated to pay her, Gietzen said.