Three unnamed Rhode Island teachers have been fired after leaked e-mails showed that the trio had exchanged a number of disparaging e-mails about students on the school's shared chatroom.
Students attending Blackstone Valley Prep in Cumberland, RI, were shocked when 18 pages worth of screenshots of messages made by teachers in Slack, the increasingly popular group messaging client, were uploaded to a public Google Drive. Sixteen-year-old Hudson Deighan, who struggles with spelling difficulties, was one of the students the teachers called out explicitly. In one exchange, Deighan's school-appointed mentor made fun of the girl to a colleague for misspelling Ta-Nehisi Coates' name as "Tonahese quotes."
“When I saw my name I just started crying,” Hudson told the Providence Journal. “I thought I was straightforward with him and he’d be straightforward with me. But I guess he just doesn’t like me, and I guess none of the teachers like me at all.”
In the Slack messages, the teachers refer to their students as "dumb," "toxic," and "idiots," and in once instance make light of the fact that a student was failing a class. While the teachers were obviously entitled to their opinions, the revelation about how they talked to each other about their pupils sent a chill through the school, prompting administrators to part ways with the educators.
"I want to be crystal clear, many of the comments written are deeply disturbing and offensive," Blackstone Valley head Jeremy Chiappetta wrote in an open letter. "As the founding school leader, executive director of the organization, and parent of three scholars in the program, I am deeply saddened and disappointed. Parents put their trust in teachers and the school, and that trust has been violated."
According to Chiappetta, the school launched an investigation into the comments and interviewed a number of the school's employees, but Hudson says that both students and their parents are still uncomfortable.
“It's just damaging to think that the people that are encouraging you are just behind your back saying, ‘She can’t do it, she’s such a dumb [expletive],’” Hudson said. “I was building confidence, slowly and surely, but now they’ve wrecked that with a few messages.”