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Principal Abe Lucabaugh's statement

Test of remarks by Central Bucks High School East Principal Abe Lucabaugh about Natalie Munroe's return to work.

Principal Abe Lucabaugh's statement

Abe Lucbaugh (Bill Reed)
Abe Lucbaugh (Bill Reed)

Central Bucks School District

Principal Abe Lucabaugh’s statement regarding Mrs. Natalie Munroe

August 3, 2011

 

Good morning, and thank you for attending this media briefing.

 

On August 29th, 2011, Natalie Munroe will return to teach

English at Central Bucks High School East. While her actions

have created an unfortunate and incredibly difficult situation,

Mrs. Munroe maintains employee rights, and that is the sole

reason for her return.

 

My intent this morning is to explain the circumstances of her

return, the damage she has created, and the moral and ethical

implications of her actions.

 

On February 8th, 2011, a blog written by Natalie Munroe, a

teacher at Central Bucks East, was discovered by students. In

a matter of hours, the blog had gone viral. As word spread of

Mrs. Munroe’s comments, students and faculty were buzzing

in disbelief that a teacher could post such shockingly profane

words.

 

That morning, I asked Mrs. Munroe if she authored the statements.

She said yes. Believing that her presence would further

incite an increasingly volatile situation, I concluded that

her continued presence in the building would be counterproductive.

 

In the ensuing days and weeks, the story of Natalie Munroe’s

blog and the questions about her right to free speech attracted

national and international interest. There was widespread

media coverage of this incident as the teacher openly shared

the matter with the media. Most media outlets published segments

of her blog for public consumption. Speculation was rampant

about the validity of her statements, her right to state them,

and the ethical and moral implications attached to her decision.

 

Most media outlets chose not to report the most graphic descrip‐

tions  Mrs. Munroe employed in her blog. One news organization

even stated that they could not include content in their publica‐

tion that would cross the boundaries of good taste. Instead,

phrases like “my students are lazy, disengaged whiners” and

“grade grubbers” and “complainers” were published. While

those particular descriptions of students were not viewed as

egregious in the public eye, the public did not have access to the

full blog and the darker, more profane statements and images

about students, parents and coworkers that it contained, images

that raise questions about the level of professionalism, integrity,

and ethical conduct that is expected to exist in the field of educa‐

tion.

 

Copies of Mrs. Munroe’s blog pertaining to students are available

this morning. Whether media outlets choose to unveil the full

contents of her blog to the public or not, phrases like “I hate your

kid,” “don’t you know how to raise kids” “your child has no other

redeeming qualities,” “lazy a‐‐hole,” a “sneaky jerk‐off,” “an argumentative f‐‐‐,” “ rat‐like” “utterly loathsome,” “sh—wad” “and “frightfully dim” evoke shock and hurt. Coupled with a graphic that shows students sittng on a shortened school bus with the

phrase “I don’t care if you lick windows, take the special bus or

occasionally pee on yourself … you hang in there sunshine, you’re

special” cut deep into the hearts of the students Natalie Munroe

taught, including those with special needs, AND the families who

entrusted their children to her care and mine. This was their

teacher.

 

Mrs. Munroe also took the  opportunity to describe her colleagues,

her building administrators, and even central administrators, in

disparaging terms.

 

Whether or not Mrs. Munroe had the legal right to express her

views with such vitriol is not the heart of this issue. No one here

is contending that she can’t say these things … legally. And for

that reason, she has a legal right to return.

 

What is at the heart of this issue, however, is the large‐scale disruption her comments created, and the ensuing damage they have caused the young men and women to whom she was alluding. Natalie Munroe’s actions placed the outstanding work that

occurs in our school in question, placed my leadership in question, placed our students’ merit in the crosshairs of national scrutiny, breached trust with the community and compromised her

professional integrity. Her comments were unprofessional, disrespectul, and disturbing, partcularly coming from the heart of an educator. Moreover, and most importantly, they were crass and CRUEL.

 

The obvious question left unanswered as the school year ended

was whether or not Mrs. Munroe would be returning to teach in

the fall. I should point out here that her maternity leave ends

this month, and regardless of the moral and ethical issues surrounding

her actions, Mrs. Munroe maintains employment  rights.

 

On June 28th, the district sent Mrs. Munroe a letter via registered

mail asking her to contact us. A��er no response, the district sent

a series of letters in the second week of July via Fed Ex, again asking

her to contact us.

 

On July 27th, Mrs. Munroe finally made contact with the district …

and confirmed receipt of all the materials we previously sent.

 

Despite the fact that Mrs. Munroe retains legal employment

rights, I would hope none of us lose sight of the real issue.

 

The real issue is that while something may be legally right, it may

not be ethically or morally right. There are consequences that occur

when a person chooses to exercise her rights and say outrageous,

disrespectful, vulgar and cruel things about other people …

especially when it’s a teacher saying terrible things about the

young men and women who are in her classroom.

 

As a public school, we are charged with meeting the needs of every

student who enters our door, rich or poor, gifted or learning

disabled, troubled or triumphant, and guiding them to their full

potential so they receive the most precious gift an education can

provide: opportunity for choice in life.

 

What pains me the most in all of this is how the statements made

by Mrs. Munroe have placed our students in the line of fire, and

caused a nation to question their collective merit.

 

Today, I want to set the record straight about who our students

are.

 

I want to set the record straight about who we are as a school

community.

 

Central Bucks East is a phenomenal high school and an exceptional

environment for our young men and women to develop their

gifts. The strength of CB East lies in its people: our stellar faculty

and our remarkable students.

 

1,640 students attend CB East. They are a mixture of privileged

and not as privileged, well‐adjusted and not, highly intelligent

and highly challenged. They are complex. At times they are unpredictable.

They long for acceptance. They seek clarity and inspiration. They look to us for guidance and stability. Let’s remember that they are adolescents on the cusp of adulthood … and remarkable ones at that.

 

Last school year, 100% of the senior class graduated. All 543 students

earned their diploma.

 

94% of those students are continuing their education at a college

or university, a trend that has held steady for the past decade.

Each year, many of our students gain admission to some of the

most competitive instutions in the nation, including Yale, Harvard,

Princeton, Penn, Cornell, West Point, the Naval Academy,

and a plethora of others.

 

This past year, 230 students graduated with a minimum GPA of

3.5 or higher, and 67 graduated with a GPA of 4.1 or higher.

The average SAT score of Central Bucks East students is over 169

points higher than the national average, and 209 points higher

than the Pennsylvania average.

 

CB East students score in the top 1% in the state on standardized

assessments taken by students in each of the 600+ high schools

across Pennsylvania.

 

I share these facts with you not to brag, but rather, to demonstrate the incredible achievement of our students, and the opportunities our teachers create for them.

 

Beyond academics, our students participate in more than 60

clubs and activities in addi��on to our extensive athletic, musical

and theatrical programs.

 

Come see one of our theatrical productions. Last year we did a

version of Les Mis that was magnificent. Come watch our band

and choir concerts – hear our students perform, and see the passion

of our instructors. Come to our art shows and see what our

students produce. If you were to spend time in our classrooms,

you would see the quality of education our teachers facilitate.

 

Beyond all this, our students and their families are inherently

good. I can speak for hours on end about their small acts of kindness.

 

Their willingness to lend a hand in ways that don’t garner attention.

 

Their support and encouragement of one another as friends and classmates.

Their generosity is heart‐warming. Last year, CB East students

logged more than 6,000 hours of community service in activities

that reached out to the community and the nation, as well as our

troops serving overseas, meeting a host of needs. Events like toy

drives, prom dress collections, book donations for tornado ravaged

areas, teens for jeans, support of women’s shelters, shoes

for third world nations, food drives and more are commonplace.

Our students never stop seeking ways to use their talents in service

to others.

 

And our faculty is right there with them, modeling, assisting, supporting.

 

I know that what I’ve just shared is lengthy, yet I want you to

know that these are the students, and the school community, Natalie

Munroe wrote about. This is the CB East she contends is

filled with frightfully dim, utterly loathsome students.

 

No school is perfect … every school has issues, yet CB East is unquestionably a quality place for students to learn and grow.

 

That’s why NEWSWEEK magazine has ranked CB East as one of

the best comprehensive high schools in the nation for the past

four years running.

 

That’s why our community is proud of our school, and grateful for

the partnership we enjoy.

 

That’s why I would place my students up against any in the nation. Likewise for my hard‐working and dedicated faculty.

 

That’s why I am so proud to be my students’ principal. I believe

that each of our young men and women is blessed with unique

gifts, and it is our responsibility to create an environment that

fosters those gifts.

 

An environment that uplifts and connects with students.

 

An environment that values and respects the whole child.

 

As educators, we have a professional and moral responsibility to

mold our students into what they can become, not mock them

for who they are. That’s what Mrs. Munroe failed to understand.

 

That’s what is so utterly disappointing.

That’s why Mrs. Munroe’s decision to write what she did, coupled

with her recent statement that she will not apologize for speaking

truth, is in such diametric opposition to the actual truth of

who we are, where we are going, and how we’ve ended up here.

 

Mrs. Munroe retains the right to return to her position, yet in exercising

her right to speak and by blatantly refusing to apologize

for her actions, she has created an unenviable position for herself.

By exercising her right to speak, she has sacrificed her respect,

her professionalism, and her ethical standing as an educator,

role model, and mentor for students. And no matter where

she goes now, no matter where she intends to teach, that is unavoidable

… and as such, Mrs. Munroe has no choice but to assume

responsibility for her actions.

 

The question of returning this teacher to her classroom versus

moving her to another school has been considered. Since this

situation has received so much media attention and coverage,

and the entire community is fully aware of the situation, it has

been concluded that relocating the teacher would be both irresponsible

and further disruptive. It is the decision of this district

that all parties will be best served by containing the issue and

monitoring the known environment at her current school. We

will not condone shifting a toxic situation to another building and

creating a maelstrom there.

 

On August 29th, our students return to East. And Natalie Munroe,

who continues to stand by her comments, says she will as

well.

 

All of this begs the question: what is the right thing for the district

to do? The decision to do the right thing does not rest with

the Central Bucks School District. Mrs. Munroe is afforded legal

employment rights. The decision to do the right thing lies in the hands of the person whose very hands created this controversy: Mrs. Munroe.

 

My focus will forever be on creating a dynamic learning environment

for all students at East and, to that end, I look forward

to welcoming our students back to our school. While

Mrs. Munroe’s actions have created a controversy that no

one deserved, we will continue to provide the high quality

education all of our students deserve. My task as a leader is

to guide our school and our students through this, and I will

do that. Better yet, we’ll do it together. It’s what makes us strong. It’s what makes us CB East.

I am sure many of you have questions. At this tme, I will be

joined at the table by the president of the CBSD Board of Directors,

Mr. Paul Faulkner, and the Superintendent of the

Central Bucks School District, Dr. N. Robert Laws, to address

your questions. Carol Counihan will serve as moderator.

Please know that while we will do what we can to answer

your questions, we cannot speak for this teacher, and will not

share information considered to be personal or proprietary.

 

Thank you.

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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