District 211 fires Palatine High School teacher over controversial Facebook post
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members Thursday voted 5-2 to fire a tenured Palatine High School social studies teacher who had been investigated for a controversial Facebook post just after the end of the school year about Black Lives Matter protests.
Most of the board members gave their reasons for their votes on the resolution to dismiss longtime teacher Jeanne Hedgepeth.
"The demonstrated lack of professionalism is disturbing to me as a teacher myself," board member Kim Cavill said before voting in support of the firing.
In early June District 211 officials started investigating the since-deleted Facebook post about the protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The investigation began after screenshots of what purported to be the teacher's remarks were shared on social media.
"The statements in the post do not reflect the values or principles of District 211," the district said in a statement at the time, without further describing the post. "We are truly sorry for any harm or disrespect that this may have caused."
A week later, the teacher said she would retire. Another week later, she rescinded her retirement request before the board could vote on it.
Several emails sent to district officials and read aloud at board meetings called for her to be fired rather than be allowed to quietly retire. Others, including some by family members and longtime acquaintances, defended the teacher's character and care for her students, if not specifically the words of her social media post.
Board member Anna Klimkowicz said she believed all people have the right to express themselves but that in the era of social media people also have to be more careful of the words they choose because of the impact they have on others. She also said the position of teacher carried more responsibility.
Board members Mark Cramer and Pete Dombrowski voted against firing Hedgepeth.
Cramer said he didn't feel the accusations met the burden of proof for dismissal. He characterized them as subjective opinions in a social media post without evidence of wrongdoing that were emailed to the administration by activists eager to orchestrate such a firing.
Dombrowski said that while Hedgepeth's failure to represent the district through her actions may have led to the board's vote, he didn't feel a Facebook post should be the deciding factor in ending a career.
Board member Ed Yung said that not firing Hedgepeth would be inconsistent with earlier disciplinary action against employees, while fellow member Steven Rosenblum said he recognized a pattern of behavior with Hedgepeth going back to 2016 that had repeated itself.
On March 14, 2019, the board voted unanimously to suspend Hedgepeth for four days without pay and issue a "notice to remedy." The meeting minutes of that vote do not describe the reason for the disciplinary action.
Some of the emails that had been sent to the district criticized it for a lack of action on a matter of intolerance that they argued even a student would have been disciplined for.