Ex-teacher Marilyn Zuniga

Ex-teacher Marilyn Zuniga

From time to time I come across teachers who make an honest mistake. Doing their best, they cross ethical boundaries. In such circumstances, teachers normally do not deserve to be fired. In most cases, all that is necessary is for their principal to say “You really can’t do that sort of thing and here’s why,” and the issue is resolved for all time. Then there is the case (from mid-April of this year) of New Jersey 3rd grade teacher Marilyn Zuniga: 

A suspended New Jersey teacher put the fate of her job into the hands of the district’s school board after charging third-graders to write to a convicted cop killer.

Marylin Zuniga made her first public remarks since a controversial project to contact former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal booted her out of the classroom at Forest Street Elementary School.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, I’m sure, is not unfamiliar to you, gentle readers. He is one of the darlings of the progressive set, a convicted cop killer, convicted because there is no doubt whatever about his guilt, nor are there any procedural issues relating to his conviction. An unrepentant, vicious, murderous waste of oxygen, because he is black and because he murdered a white police officer, and because he now styles himself a poet, he is beloved of progressives who never cease praising him and trying to spring him from jail where he is serving a life sentence without parole. Since the advent of the age of Obama, I’ve been predicting that he is only one of countless bottom dwellers Barack Obama will pardon on his way out of the White House.

I’m sure Abu-Jamal and his worshipers would love to see his photo here.

Supporters chanted and begged the school board to push back their closed session to allow Zuniga to defend herself, NJ.com reported.

She has been suspended without pay, but offered apologizes to parents for not consulting with them first for having her young students draft the letters in February.

‘I made a mistake, but I have learned from that,’ an emotional Zuniga said Tuesday night, reading off a pre-written statement. ‘Given my record, I do not believe this one episode justifies my termination. However, if the board has decided to terminate me, then I am prepared to submit my resignation to avoid the consequences to my career that would follow from termination.’

The letters were delivered to Abu-Jamal by way of Baruch College Professor Johanna Fernandez, who said the inmate recovering from complications with diabetes was ‘touched’ by their correspondence.

Former death row inmate, Abu-Jamal, is now serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philly cop Officer Daniel Faulkner after a round of appeals.

‘I have always put my children first and have never would never put their safety at risk. I was very proud of my student’s work and I shared this on social media. I do apologise to parents and community members for having to done that,’ Zuniga added.

Putting aside the bizarre thought processes involved in asking a class of third graders to write get well letters to a murderer, Zuniga might be right in suggesting termination for a first year teacher to be a bit harsh. And that would be true if she were truly contrite and sincere. Newsone sheds light on that possibility: 

You’re our hero!’

Support for the now-suspended New Jersey teacher who allowed her third-graders to write get-well letters to former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal was undeniable at an Orange Public School Board meeting Tuesday. Individuals flanking both sides of Marilyn Zuniga called for her reinstatement while she appealed to the board to allow her to continue teaching after the highly-criticized writing activity.

But among the cheers and the declarations that the third grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Forest Street School was a hero, Zuniga told NewsOne that her young students are the real heroes for showing ‘compassion.’

‘I, in no way, identify myself as a hero,’ Zuniga told NewsOne. ‘My kids should be looked at as heroes because they showed compassion, care, and love like any member of the community should show. They were mature enough to do that in a letter and it is incredible and admirable of them as well.’ [skip]

Zuniga told NewsOne that she taught the students about Abu-Jamal during a Black History Month lesson on Black civil rights leaders.

‘On February 5th, I presented a do-now that stated: ‘What is the main idea of this quote: So long as one just person is silenced, there is no justice,’’ she said in a statement released shortly after her suspension. ‘This quote is by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Many of my students took it upon themselves to go home and do research about civil rights leaders discussed in class. In April, I mentioned to my students that Mumia was very ill and they told me they would like to write get-well letters to Mumia.

“Black civil rights leaders?” Really?! The murderer of a police officer is a civil rights leader? One wonders, breathlessly, who else Zuniga might have thought fit to represent as a civil rights leader to her charges. Al Sharpton? Trayvon Martin? Michael Brown? That statement alone calls Zuniga’s fitness to teach third grade children into question.  And notice how she refers to him as “Mumia.”  Is she on a first name basis with many murderers?  I jest, of course–somewhat.  In progressive circles, such people are thought of as dear comrades and role models, like “Fidel,” “Mao,” or “Vladimir.”

When asked if she had hesitation about her students writing the letters to the prisoner, Zuniga told NewsOne that society should start to rethink what leadership means.

‘I’m sure some people would say figures like that should be taught at a high school level, middle school level,’ she said. ‘I think that it’s actually incredible that a third grader would be able to show critical thinking skills at such a high level when they’re only in third grade. In a lot of ways it can be said that Nelson Mandela was ostracized at first and look at his record now. Look how many people admired him and wrote him letters. That was over 30 years ago and those teachers were scrutinized for it, so I think we need to reconstruct our thoughts on who a leader is.

Where to begin? Children aren’t capable of the kind of critical thinking skills to which Zuniga alludes until the age of 17 or older. What obviously happened is Zuniga decided to indoctrinate third graders with her political philosophy rather than teaching them to read and write. They didn’t display advanced thinking skills, they followed her lead and tried to please her, which is what children at that age do.

Oh yes, I don’t know everything, but I’m relatively certain that people who murder police officers are not “leaders.”

The president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police denounced Zuniga’s actions, saying the writing assignment was ‘not a good use of school time.’

“It’s absolutely not teaching them anything except how to interact with a convicted cop killer,’ John McNesby told the NY Daily News. 

Precisely. And what qualities or accomplishments would this particular murderer have that would qualify him as a subject of adulation or sympathy for a class of third graders? The eventual outcome of the controversy was, thankfully, predictable:

Marylin Zuniga, a first-year teacher who drew widespread condemnation for assigning her young charges the task of writing to Mumia Abu-Jamal, was canned at the meeting of the Orange Board of Education, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported.

‘Even when I heard that the letters were written…because of compassion, you could’ve written to somebody in a nursing home.’

– Gloria Stewart, Orange, NJ resident

Zuniga, who taught at Forest Street Elementary School, told board members prior to their hasty vote to can her that she has broad support from around the country, the newspaper reported.

‘There’s people around the nation who support me, who believe I need to be reinstated and I believe that I need to be reinstated,’ Zuniga said. ‘My students need me in the classroom. My students have requested that I come back to the classroom.

I’ve no doubt that many around the nation and New Jersey wanted Zuniga back in the classroom. More’s the pity.

The vote to fire Zuniga occurred after several hours of public speakers, many of whom praised Zuniga for teaching her students to have compassion for a man who killed a police officer. Abu-Jamal killed Faulkner during a routine traffic stop of Abu-Jamal’s brother. At trial, several witnesses reported seeing Abu-Jamal kill Faulkner, and two witnesses said Abu-Jamal confessed to the killing, saying, ‘I shot the mother—er, and I hope the mother—er dies.” [skip]

Ah! Now I see why Zuniga thought him a civil rights leader. More’s the pity.

Zuniga’s attorney, Alan Levine, told the newspaper Zuniga is now considering legal action to challenge her firing.

I’m sure she is. I’m not normally in favor of firing a first year teacher for making a mistake in this category. However, Ms. Zuniga not only demonstrated that she has no real remorse, but defended her fundamental mistake, a mistake that clearly indicates that she has no idea what kind of material is appropriate for 3rd graders, or worse, if she does, she is willing to ignore that understanding in favor of the most radical leftist political indoctrination. Political indoctrination of any kind is obviously wrong in schools for students of any age. All of that said, she has also demonstrated that she will be likely to do the same, or worse, should she return to the classroom.

But we need not be overly worried about Ms. Zuniga’s fortunes. I’ve no doubt there are countless school districts across this nation that would be more than happy to hire her because of her political intentions. More’s the pity.