Fifth grade teacher Nicole LeMire says she was fired after she confronted a school bully. (Photo: GoFundMe)
A fifth grade teacher says she was fired after she publicly confronted a school bully – and now she plans to sue the school district.
Nicole LeMire, a fifth grade teacher at Glen Oak Elementary in Lewis Center, Ohio, caught a student blowing his nose on other students, pushing them, and using inappropriate language, she told NBC 4. In response, she addressed his action in front of the class. “I said, ‘do you know how your actions and your words are hurting other students and your friends?’” she said. “That’s it.”
But the school district says her exchange with the boy amounted to bullying in its own right. “On April 14, 2014, you asked students in your classroom to take turns saying how the student (‘Student A’) had acted badly, violated rule or insulted them, and/or why Student A was annoying or had no friends,” the school said in a “Notice of Intention To Consider Termination of Employment Contracts” that was sent to LeMire on May 5. The school district provided the letter to Yahoo Parenting along with LeMire’s personnel file. “You required Student A to listen to classmates complaints and refused to allow him to respond or defend himself against potentially embellished complaints.”
The letter states that LeMire “exercised poor professional judgment” when she tried to resolve the incident, after the bully’s parents reported it to the school. “On April 15, 2015, you held a class meeting to discuss the incident… During this meeting, students were crying, and one student left the room crying and looking for a guidance counselor.”
According to the school’s documents, this episode was the latest in a slew of incidents that resulted in suspensions or written reprimands for LeMire. In a December, 2014, suspension notice, LeMire was warned that further “unprofessional or unethical behavior” could result in termination.
LeMire didn’t respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
In a meeting on Thursday, the Oletangy school board, the district that includes Glen Oak Elementary, voted to terminate LeMire.
At that meeting, colleagues of LeMire spoke out in support. “She’s a natural-born educator,“ colleague Marsha Seymour told the board, according to NBC 4. "She truly has the child’s best interest in mind, no matter what.”
LeMire plans to pursue legal action against the school district, and has even set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for her lawsuit. On the page, she writes, “I am asking for your help as I continue my fight against the Olentangy Local School District for wrongfully terminating my contract. As I believe in this cause wholeheartedly, it is going to be costly. If you find it in your heart to give monetarily toward the amount of my legal fees, I would be most grateful. Thank you. #WorthEveryPenny.” As of press time, she’d raised $200 of her $10,000 goal.
Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational philosophy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an expert on bullying, says that LeMire’s choice to publicly confront the bully is exactly what teachers should be doing. “We want teachers to have an open conversation about bullying in their classrooms,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “At the beginning of the year, teachers should talk to their students about how we want, as a class, to create a climate that says we don’t accept bullying and that includes calling kids out on their bad behavior.”
While Espelage doesn’t know exactly what happened in LeMire’s case – “it’s a he said-she said, maybe she did take it too far” – she says research shows that kids will engage in less bullying behavior when they see adults address it publicly. “You want to call out the behavior because the victim deserves to have an adult say ‘we’re not going to tolerate this,’” she says. “Kids are paying attention. Teachers need to be role models, and it seems she did what experts would agree with, because there has to be a climate where bullied kids feel supported.”