A middle school teacher in Colorado has been placed on paid leave after she misidentified one of the students involved in the Covington Catholic school incident last week in Washington, D.C., and accused him of being a member of “Hitler Youth.”
Michelle Grissom, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch, posted a since-deleted tweet that read: “His name is Jay Jackson. His Twitter account is closed to non followers so we won’t interfere with his training in the #HitlerYouth.”
result of this teachers rush to judgement ..totally abhorrent behavior and inexcusable actions that need to have consequences…SHE IS TEACHING YOUR STUDENTS!!! (3/3) pic.twitter.com/1hjAMBagtr
— John Jackson (@DrJacksonOB) January 20, 2019
Jay’s father, John Jackson, saw the teacher’s tweets online and immediately responded to her inflammatory comments, assuring her the student in question — who actually turned out to be Nick Sandmann, the teenager at the center of the weekend controversy — was not his son, whom he said was home playing basketball.
“Listen, I’m happy to retract his name if it’s not him,” Grissom tweeted back. “Though, according to his school’s schedule, he didn’t play a game today unless he’s playing for another team. His name is all over Twitter so you’ll want to convince more than just me.”
After another Twitter user, identified as Chris Donahue, criticized Grissom for “outing a kid without any type of proof” — an act he described as “malicious” — the middle school teacher retracted her previous tweets.
Before deleting her Twitter account altogether, Grissom wrote, “I officially retract using Jay Jackson from Covington High School’s name as the racist and disrespectful student who mocked Native American, Nathan Phillips. I apologize to Jay Jackson and his family.”
Jackson, for his part, called the Colorado educator’s actions “totally abhorrent” and “inexcusable,” according to the Highlands Ranch Herald.
For those who don’t know, the “Hitler Youth” was established in the 1930s during Adolf Hitler’s murderous reign. It was a group dedicated to indoctrinating children to support Hitler’s ideology and prepare them to fight to advance his goals.
How did the school respond?
In an email sent to parents Monday, Mountain Ridge Middle School Principal Shannon Clarke addressed Grissom’s unacceptable behavior.
“I have been made aware of comments on social media that involve a member of the MRMS community,” she wrote. “We are addressing this situation, as appropriate. If you have questions or concerns specific to your student, please contact me.”
Clarke followed up with parents Wednesday, when she told them Grissom “is currently on leave,” noting the school was working to ensure a smooth transition for the students in her care.
Following the frustrating incident, several parents attended a school board meeting Thursday. Attendees were told before the event began that they were not allowed to reference Grissom’s name during the meeting due to district policy — a somewhat ironic rule, given the only reason they were there is because Grissom herself inappropriately invoked a child’s name online.
Regardless, one parent at the meeting, Brad Wan, took the stand and proceeded to use Grissom’s name, hoping to bring the issue up for discussion. He was promptly escorted out of the building.
“A speaker should never be removed from this podium for doing their civic duty and speaking to our elected officials,” Wan said.
Neither the school nor the district have announced next steps regarding Grissom.