2 Bangor teachers resign in fallout over video

Bangor teachers, inappropriate comments
A still image taken from video showing people -- apparently Bangor school employees-- talking inappropriately about their co-workers and students. (***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this caption inaccurately attributed the statements to teachers when other school employees were included. This error has since been fixed.***)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) –- Two teachers for Bangor Public Schools have resigned after video surfaced showing school employees naming co-workers and students they’d like to kill or sleep with.

School district attorney Robert Huber told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday one of the teachers resigning was among those given a written reprimand by the district; the other had been verbally reprimanded. He said the school board still needs to accept the resignations.

During Monday night’s board meeting, Huber said two teachers and a school secretary, Patti Waite, were involved in the inappropriate comments recorded in the video posted to YouTube Monday. The teachers received written reprimands and Waite resigned. Four other teachers who were present received verbal reprimands.

At a meeting Monday evening, the Bangor Board of Education president said the six-minute video was recorded in mid-January and that it shows district employees.

A FIREABLE OFFENSE?

Some outraged community members called for the firing of those shown on camera, but it’s not clear whether the situation legally rises to the level of a fireable offense.

Bangor school board, video
A packed house at the Bangor Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Feb. 13, 2017, during which a video showing staff members speaking inappropriately was discussed.

“Teachers and everyone else has (sic) a Constitutional right to freedom of speech,” said Sarissa Montague, an attorney with the Kalamazoo law firm of Levine and Levine.

However, Montague says there are exceptions to the rule.

“As it applies to the teachers, if there was something in their contract, in their union agreements… something like that that prohibited them from saying this, then that could be an issue,” explained Montague.

RIGHT TO PRIVACY

Also called into question is the staff members’ right to privacy.

“There are statutes, they’re called eavesdropping statutes, and they make it illegal for people to record private conversations without the permission of the people who are participating in the conversation, said Montague.

But again, Montague says there are exceptions to the rule.

“When you have six people in a bar, a bar that is open to the public, it is certainly difficult, I would say, to say that that is a private conversation,” she said.

A LOT OF GRAY AREAS

The bottom line: almost everyone has the means to record you and send it out to a lot of people.

“I don’t know necessarily that there is a black line that separates what you can do and what you can’t do,” added Montague. “However, you certainly should use common sense when you have having conversations that can be overheard by anybody.”

Montague says there are also a number of gray areas if someone involved in the situation wants to file a civil lawsuit, especially when it comes to proving damages.