The taxpayer-funded school teacher in Orange, N.J. who told her third-grade students to write get-well cards to notorious convicted cop killer and one-time death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal has been suspended — with pay.
School district officials emphatically condemned the assignment. They called it “unauthorized activity” and “vehemently deny” knowing anything about it, according to NJ Advance Media.
“The Orange Public Schools was surprised to learn through recent news reports that one of its teachers, Ms. Marilyn Zuniga, a third grade teacher at Forest Street Elementary School, involved her students in a ‘get well’ letter writing assignment to convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal,” a school district statement said.
“The incident reported is in no way condoned nor does it reflect curriculum, program or activities approved by the district.”
Zuniga’s students penned get-well cards to Abu-Jamal, a 60-year-old former Black Panther serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Zuniga proudly tweeted about giving the letters to Baruch College history professor Johanna Fernandez to hand over to Abu-Jamal, who was removed from death row in 2008. (RELATED: Third-Grade Teacher Has Students Write ‘Get Well’ Cards To Cop Killer)
The third-grade teacher has since deactivated her Twitter account.
Abu-Jamal entered the hospital last month suffering from complications related to diabetes. Activists protested at the time claiming that Abu-Jamal’s family was unable to visit him in the hospital.
Fernandez, the Baruch professor, is a member of the group Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The get-well cards to a cop killer aren’t Zuniga’s first foray into teaching social justice.
In November, the public school teacher had students engage in a “community research project” about the Michael Brown shooting. She posted a picture of one student’s creation — a poster referencing the “Hands up, don’t shoot” chant made popular following Brown’s death. The phrase was based on some witnesses’ claims that Brown was holding his hands up in surrender when he was shot last August by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo. police officer. However, the Justice Department determined that Brown was not holding his hands up in that manner.
School district officials indicated that they would investigate Zuniga’s get-well card activism just as soon as the district-wide spring break ends and school resumes on Monday.
“Ms. Zuniga will be immediately suspended with pay until such time the investigation is completed,” the statement obtained by NJ Advance Media reads.
For now, she can enjoy use her paid time off to revel in “yoga, reading and DJing,” the activities she enjoy in her spare time, according to her bio at the Forest Street School website.