MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A comment from a Martin County School Board member regarding students watching movies in class before Thanksgiving break sparked outrage with a popular online mom group.
Many viewers reached out to WPTV about the post in the "Stuart Moms" Facebook group, and took it to be an attack on local teachers.
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"As moms, the last couple days of school before break, would it bother you if your kids were watching a movie in class?" WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked a group of Martin County mothers.
All of them replied no.
WPTV on Tuesday spoke to three moms about a now-deleted post in the almost 20,000 strong "Stuart Moms" Facebook group.
Martin County School Board member Christia Li Roberts wrote, "The intent at the Martin County School District is for high quality instruction. If your child's class watched a movie for entertainment this week, please COMMENT with the following: School, Grade Level, Regular Teacher or Substitute (teacher name not necessary)."
"It read to me very much — and every other person — that teachers were going to get in trouble or principals were going to get in trouble if teachers showed movies during those two days of school before the break," a mother named Sydney said.
Mama bears came out in full force with hundreds of comments defending teachers and questioning the intent of the board member's words.
"It was very much a big brother is watching you, and we don't trust our teachers to do what's best for the students," a mother named Carol said.
The topic of watching movies on TV in class first came up on Nov. 22 during a Martin County School Board meeting. Board members were talking about two hurricane make-up days just before winter break.
"Some of the emails that I've gotten say, 'well, they are just going to watch movies, and so why are they coming to school if they are just going to watch movies on those days?'" Roberts said. "And [Superintendent Dr. John Millay] has assured me the intent is not for them to watch movies. The intent is for actual learning to be happening."
In response to her post, Roberts praised the district's educators and released the following statement to WPTV on Tuesday:
"I never cease to be amazed by the dedication, professionalism and sheer talent displayed by our outstanding educators. At no point was it my intent to offend or create upset feelings amongst our teachers or supportive community. I humbly ask for forgiveness from all who were offended or troubled by my posts.
In this season of gratitude and reflection, I am grateful for our Martin County community that has graciously allowed me to pursue my passion for public service in the school district that is so near and dear to my heart. I will continue to learn from this experience, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to express their gratitude for our most-deserving teachers."
"I have done mental gymnastics trying to figure out how else it could have been read," Sydney said. "And I do not see a way that the post could have been taken as supportive to teachers. I just can't see how it meant anything other than the way everybody took it."
These moms hope that in the end, this is a lesson on communication.
"If you are delivering a specific message, then be very clear about your communication," a mother named Jessica said. "Son't leave anything for interpretation. Say what your intentions are and be direct. Don't be vague."
And above all, love for those in the classroom.
"What I took from this post mostly was the support that our community has for our teachers," Carol said.
President Karen Resciniti of the Martin County teachers union said she was disappointed by Roberts' post and added that it is not unheard of, nor inappropriate, for teachers to show family movies or those relevant to the curriculum when attendance is low, especially before a holiday break.