Teachers Escape Firing After Calling Special Ed Students ‘Morons,’ ‘Short Bus Kids’
Two taxpayer-funded elementary school teachers in New Jersey have been suspended without pay for their roles in a vulgar online chat making fun of special education students.
A third teacher involved in the crude chat session has been fired.
The chat session occurred in the fall during a crowded technology training session at the administrative office in the comfortable, leafy suburb of Edison Township, reports NJ Advance Media.
The teachers are Tyler Van Pelt, Maryellen Lechelt and Maria Weber. Van Pelt is the one who was sacked.
“i like the group name ‘morons,'” Lechelt, a fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School wrote to her colleagues at one point, in reference to special education students.
“they take the tart cart home,” Lechelt added.
Van Pelt chimed in: “short bus kids.”
The teachers also commented negatively about other teachers and the district superintendent.
Van Pelt had some positive things to say, too — about the attractive female instructor teaching the ongoing training session. He called her a “poor man’s Denise Richards.”
There was sexual banter. At one point, for example, the term “baby batter” was used. According to Urban Dictionary, “baby batter” means sperm. Another term used in the chat was the acronym “DSL.” (Its meaning is not fit to print.)
The teachers used laptops they had been issued by the public school district for their chat.
The lewd-chatting trio was busted by a teacher who reported the offending messages after logging into the chat — which anyone with the same software could do.
In their defense, the teachers said their comments about the special education students were taken out of context. They said they were responding to someone in the training session who had uttered the phrase “low students.”
The school district suspended Lechelt, the fifth-grade teacher, for 120 days without pay. Also, she won’t get a raise.
Weber, a special education teacher at James Monroe Elementary School, received a 90-day unpaid suspension. School district officials noted that she had chatted the least.
Van Pelt, the teacher who has been fired, had a history of allegedly problematic behavior. He once got so wasted at a high school graduation that local police had to intervene, school district officials claimed. There was a domestic violence incident with another teacher, too.
An arbitrator found Van Pelt responsible for masturbating on school district property.
Van Pelt also conducted union activities during the school day, officials said.
The sacked teacher’s attorney, William Koy, cited his client’s “stellar” record. It’s not clear if there will be an appeal.
Lechelt and Weber will teach in the fall.