JACKSON, Miss. (USA TODAY) -- A Richland High teacher is no longer employed because she violated school policy by showing a movie in her classroom without her principal's permission, district officials say.
MaryPorter, a 19-year classroom veteran, "is no longer employed by thedistrict," said Rankin County School Board president Cecil McCrory. "Theteacher violated policy."
Porter showed the R-rated movie"Dolan's Cadillac" starring Christian Slater, to her 10th-grade Englishstudents. The movie is adapted from a short story by the horror authorStephen King and contains violence and profanity. Porter reportedlyshowed them the movie for an assignment in which they were to comparethe movie to an Edgar Allen Poe story.
"All movies, regardless oftheir rating or their relevance, have to be approved before they areshown," McCrory said. "It can be a religious movie, and it has to beapproved by the school. This one was not approved."
There's anappeal process in which teachers can appeal disciplinary actionssanctioned by the school district, said McCrory. Teachers can appealfirings, though it's unclear whether Porter was terminated or resigned.
RankinCounty school district Assistant Superintendent Richard Morrison saidhe'd have to double-check whether Porter was fired or resigned withRichland High Principal Richard Sutton, who was out of the officeTuesday.
"This kind of thing the board takes very, veryseriously," McCrory said. When reached Tuesday by The Clarion-Ledger,Porter said she "can not comment at this time, but I will in the nearfuture."
Multiple posts on Twitter and Instagram by Richland Highstudents show a goodbye letter written on a class whiteboard,purportedly written by Porter to her classes. It reads, "Kids, I wantyou to know that you are never too old to make a mistake, and I made abig one by playing a movie with my 10th-graders. I will forever be sorryfor my error in judgment. I want you to know I love each of you andwish you only the best."
Porter's absence from the classroom Tuesday elicited a huge outcry bystudents on social media, with many calling for a school walkout andtaking to their phones during school hours to post their emotions andphotographs taken at the school. A group of 30-40 students did walk outof the school shortly before noon, carrying signs and gathering forseveral minutes near the school's flagpole.
Morrison said students, teachers and staff are to be commended for how they handled the situation.
"Therewere some students who wanted to show support for the teacher. I hateto classify it as a walkout. It was in between classes," Morrison said."The kids were hurting because they lost a teacher that they reallyrespected, and the school acknowledged that."
There was no reasonto discipline the students who protested, he said. "The teachers andprincipals let them have their moment, and then they went back intoclass," he said. "The kids cooperated. The staff said that theyunderstood their feelings, but that they (the students) didn't have allthe information."
Many adults and parents posting Facebookcomments online in reaction to The Clarion-Ledger's story on thesituation also weighed in their support, saying that if Porter indeedmade a mistake, it didn't warrant her firing.
Parent SammieBateman told television station WJTV she complained to the schooldistrict. She said her daughter at the school is Asian, and that raceissues in the film were not properly addressed. Bateman, who said shehas three children at Richland High, said the movie contains derogatoryChinese slurs.
Students on Instagram said that they'd walk out atvarious times Tuesday, and one called for a protest after the firstblock of classes Wednesday. "We won't back down, no matter if the copsare called," student Victoria Alexis posted on Instagram, apparentlyfrom the school.
With the hashtag #bringmsporterback, a number ofstudents defended the teacher, who also was Richland High's bowling andgolf coach. "WORST mistake RHS has ever made," tweeted AllisonSonnenberg.
Another student posted on Tuesday morning a photographof a male staff member standing in a school hallway. "Big man said no.#bringmsporterback," tweeted Levian Luu.
And student Colby Williams tweeted on the same day, "They are trying to take up phones so we stay off social media."
Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, Marshall Kranz tweeted, "We got cops in the school now. This has become really stupid."
Meanwhile, classmate Kari Jordan tweeted, "Sorry teachers but I'm keeping my phone. Don't get crazy."
"Ihad a teacher show us 'Braveheart' in school once, and I'm relativelywell-adjusted. #bringmsporterback," tweeted Tim Murphy, in response tothe social campaign helmed by RHS students on Tuesday.
And, Kranztweeted, "One of the best, funnest teachers I have ever had. Probablythe dumbest move this faculty has ever made! A great woman!#bringmsporterback."
A Facebook post from Porter on her personalpage around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday addressed the ordeal. "This has been amost overwhelming day for me in many ways," Porter wrote. "As I trudgeoff to bed, I feel a lot of love floating around me! Thanks for all thecomments and words of encouragement!"
According to the school district's employee directory, Porter had taught at Richland High for three years.
Batemantold the television station that the teacher tried to conceal theincident when she realized her mistake."My children reported that theywere instructed not to tell. Don't talk about this movie in the hallway,and don't tell your parents," Bateman told WJTV.
McCrory said hehad no knowledge of that and that a decision to relieve a teacher of hisor her employment can be made by a principal in conjunction with thesuperintendent's office. Morrison also said he has received no reportsthat Porter told students not to tell.
"I can't say it will neverhappen again," McCrory said of the film's showing. "If they go bypolicy, it will never happen again."
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