Would You Fire This Teacher?

So…would you do it? If you were the principal of his school in Waterloo, Iowa, would you fire a teacher for saying this on Facebook? And, tougher question: Would you fire a teacher if they said similar stuff about someone you despise?

baish teacher greta sniper rifle

Sarcasm? Threat? Free speech?

Here’s what we know: According to the New York Times, chemistry teacher Matt Baish has been put on leave following a Facebook comment. A former student asked who was going to see Greta Thunberg speak at a climate-action rally, and Baish replied,

dont have my sniper rifle

Baish was suspended while the district decides what to do about him.

What do you think they should do? Is this kind of statement an obvious cause for termination? Seems like it to me. After all, this is more than a mere political statement. On its face, this is a threat. To my mind–and I’m guessing lots of people disagree–a high-school teacher who spouts off like this shouldn’t be trusted to teach, even if he says he was joking.

But to be fair, we should consider the reverse as well. If you agree with me about this case, what if you had a teacher in your building who made a sarcastic threat about someone like Donald Trump? Would that be cause for termination?

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11 Comments

  1. John Wallach

     /  October 7, 2019

    I have no idea why you think these are tough questions. Joking about shooting a teenager or a sitting president? Really?

    Reply
  2. My first instinct would be to take that as a joke.

    Reply
    • I think that’s how a lot of people see it. So the question becomes: Can/Should a teacher be fired for making a terrible, inappropriate joke? A joke about threatening a child?

      Reply
      • If he made the joke in the classroom, he should be fired. If he made it on facebook, then perhaps a caution is appropriate. But firing him would seem excessive.

      • Even if the school district specifically asks teachers not to make such comments on social media? From the Iowa TV station’s coverage:

        The district announced Friday that Baish had been placed on leave. The school district’s social media policy advises staff not to comment with “threats of physical or bodily harm.”

      • I thought that slavery had been abolished.

        We joke about teaching being an easy job with lots of vacation time. But it can be pretty tough going. A teacher needs to be able to get away from the classroom, and have a life of his own.

        His employer should not be able to rigidly control what he does when on his own time. Either that, or he should get a huge pay increase for being on duty 24 hours of the day.

  3. JS

     /  October 7, 2019

    I am not sure he should be fired, but I would never want one of my children in his class. A joke about shooting a child in a nation where we have active shooter drills and children think twice before they walk into a school is not a funny joke and he knew it. He is either opposed to dissent, and I do not want my kid is his class, or he is an idiot, and I do not want my kid in his class. The district is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    Reply
  4. Chas Law

     /  October 7, 2019

    It’s a threat of violence in a time when threats of violence, especially gun violence, are taken very seriously. Adults project their experiences into this situation and it doesn’t add up for many of them because they grew up in a different time. Working in a school, you know how serious violent threats or sarcastic jokes are viewed. And when you really think about it, it wasn’t funny on any level whether directed at child or adult, dem or republican. Enough to be canned? In many districts, yes.

    Reply
  5. Agellius

     /  October 7, 2019

    If you think he should be fired for making this kind of a joke on his own time, then a Catholic school firing an openly gay teacher should be a no-brainer. In both cases they are violating the values that the school espouses.

    Reply
  6. JC

     /  October 14, 2019

    I believe this guy should be fired but would be fine with someone threatening Trump because I like Thunberg but hate Trump.

    Reply

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