The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

April 19, 2013

Student’s relatives complain of sleeping Emerson MS teacher

School district confirms a ‘personnel matter’ after principal wakes teacher

ENID, Okla. — Relatives of a student say an Emerson Middle School teacher was photographed asleep at her desk Thursday and claim students were disciplined for taking the photo.

An Enid Public Schools official confirmed the teacher had fallen asleep, but called the situation “a personnel matter.”

“It is important that teachers always be alert, attentive and engaged in the classroom,” said Amber Fitzgerald, director of human resources and communications for Enid Public Schools. “If there is a situation that prevents them from doing so, such as illness, they are encouraged to take a day of leave. This is a personnel matter that is being addressed internally.”

However, Fitzgerald said no disciplinary action was taken toward the students who photographed the sleeping teacher.

According to a parent who did not want their name — or that of their child — used for fear of reprisal from the school, the incident happened during first hour.

“They were watching a movie, and the teacher fell asleep,” the parent said.

“This is not the first time she’s been caught sleeping,” the grandfather wrote in an email to the News & Eagle.

The grandfather wrote that students notified the principal, Doug Stafford. Stafford could not be reached for comment Friday.

“The students alerted Mr. Stafford to the situation, and he woke the teacher,” Fitzgerald said. “He was made aware from someone who received a picture that photos had been taken. He then talked with the students who had taken photos. Because this is a personnel issue, I am unable to release the name of the employee involved.”

The parent claims another teacher overheard students talking about posting photos of the sleeping teacher on a social website, and the principal told them doing so would be considered “cyberbullying.” Students were told to delete photos of the sleeping teacher, the relatives said.

“The principal went through the rest of the photos on my child’s phone,” the parent said.

EPS policy on cell phones, provided by Fitzgerald, reads that a student can have a cell phone at school, but the phone should be kept “silent and out of sight during the school day.”

The policy continues that school officials who have reasonable suspicion can detain and search the student or their property for unauthorized cell phones. The policy reads that students found using the cell phone “for any illegal purpose (or) violation of privacy … shall be subject to discipline and the device shall be confiscated and not returned until a parent conference has been held.”

“In this situation, the administrator talked with students, generally, about the effects of using someone’s image without his or her knowledge, but there was no mention of charges or cyber-bullying,” Fitzgerald said. “No disciplinary action was taken with students.”

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