A Florida public school district is investigating an atheist teacher, Susan Creamer, who wrote disparaging remarks about her students on a Facebook page for local atheists, claiming the students harassed and teased her by inviting her to church (1). Creamer currently teaches at Merritt Brown Middle School in Panama City.
Creamer posted on the Facebook page Atheists of Bay County that “There is a bevy of boys in one of my classes who are taking turns either inviting me to their church or leaving (anonymously) flyers inviting me to church events. Today, I found one on the A/V cart I use for a podium… Every time any child sneezes, they loudly say ‘God bless you!’ and look in my direction. I have complained twice to my principal – one last month and once today. She has spoken privately to one or two of the little cretins, but it seems to do NO GOOD. I am feeling bullied and harassed. It has become intolerable. I don’t feel like talking with the parents will stop the inappropriate behaviors because, for all I know, the parents are encouraging them.” It is the use of the word “cretins” that has got Creamer in hot water (2).
A statement made by the school district says that “Teachers are encouraged and trained, to keep clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives to ensure that the classroom remains a neutral and supportive environment. This training and related School Board policy includes guidelines for interactions on all social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook. We do not condone the use of disparaging comments about our students in any form, on any social media platform or in any school.”
A complaint against Creamer sent by a parent to the school states, “First and foremost she should not be discussing her religious preferences (or lack thereof) with any of these students. Had she not been proudly boasting of her atheism these children would not know of her personal beliefs and I would not be addressing this situation. Secondly, as an adult in a professional occupation her choice of words to describe her students is completely unprofessional and completely out of line. Third, for her to seek out suggestions from a group on social media of how to handle her students (my children) has me outraged?”
If the investigation finds Creamer violated the policy, she could face a range of disciplinary action (3). However, Jeromy Henderson, a member of the Athiests of Bay County page, said that Creamer was simply talking on the closed page to get advice about how to handle the “harassment” she was getting by students who had learned of her atheist beliefs, “It has turned into a modern-day witchhunt. The group is closed. It was never meant for public consumption. She was just looking for advice from the group on how to deal with students she felt were harassing her. Yes, her terminology was off-putting, but she was just looking for advice about how to deal with them. She’d already been to her principal and was not getting results.”
Similarly, Nick Fish, the national program director of American Atheists, told TheBlaze that if Creamer discussed principles of atheism in class, “that could potentially be an issue. For example, saying in class that all religions are wrong or insulting believers would be impermissible. But that doesn’t appear to be what has happened here. Simply indicating that she is an atheist isn’t inappropriate… It certainly speaks to the stigma faced by atheists that a teacher can be harassed by students over her religious beliefs, or lack thereof” (4).
It is quite possible that the students discovered Creamer’s atheism after consulting her Facebook bio which says that she’s “a wife, mom, teacher, actor, gardener, baseball lover, atheist, loyal friend, and proud nerd.”
How this debacle will resolve is yet be seen but I’d feel really sorry for Creamer if she receives the rear end of the stick in this one. It would seem to me, with the limited information at my disposal, that Creamer was the victim in this case. I certainly see no fault in her reaching out to her atheist Facebook group for assistance, however, she could have been wise enough to avoid referring to her students as “cretins” which is what has got her in hot water. This should stand in as a reminder for people to be careful what they post on social media. But if school pupils wouldn’t mock a Muslim teacher then they shouldn’t mock an atheist one either. And if they do they need to face disciplinary measures.
Creamer could not be reached for comment.
1. Kumar, A. 2017. Atheist Teacher Under Probe After Calling Students Who Invited Her to Church ‘Cretins’ on Facebook. Available.
2. Urbanski, D. 2017. Atheist teacher under fire for saying ‘little cretins’ have ‘bullied’ her in class over her beliefs. Available.
3. The Walton Sun. 2017. Teacher being investigated over Facebook comments. Available.
4. Urbanski, D. 2017. Ibid.