Teacher outed at Overland raises other questions

This week when Carly McKinney, 23, a math teacher from Overland High School was investigated by 9NEWS, then suspended by the Cherry Creek School District for her Twitter account, I was ready to defend her.

McKinney’s twitter account contained provocative photos, drug references and questionable comments about her students such as “Just got called Ms. McCutie. Points for being clever, however you are still jailbait.”

Initially I had to ask: why shouldn’t a 23-year-old teacher and college graduate, be deprived of her First Amendment rights and twitter account?

Reading into the case, this young woman not only incriminated herself with some of her tweets, like “Watching a drug bust go down in the parking lot. It’s funny cuz I have weed in my car in the staff parking lot,” but made it very difficult to defend her. Clearly she made bad decisions, even after receiving social media awareness training from the school district.

McKinney’s behavior was normal for a 23 — smoking pot, going to concerts, tweeting about work. But for a school teacher there is an expectation of integrity as a role model to children.

This raises more questions about our school system than about McKinney. The most recent study by the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that 74 percent of all public school teachers in this country are white females and 44 percent of them are younger than 40. We are putting a huge responsibility on young white women to teach an increasingly diverse and underprepared flood of children because we invest more in war than quality education.

McKinney is the product of the floundering public school system that has cornered troubled schools with little financial support.

Overland High School is a prime example of this educational cocktail the federal government has left states to deal with.

Overland’s test scores were far below proficient for the last decade, especially in math and ranked at 29 percent overal.

From 1990 to 2010, the percentage of white children enrolled in public school declined from 67 percent to 54 percent, while the percentage of Hispanic students has risen from 12 to over 24, doubling in the last twenty years. The relative sizes of Black and Asian populations have remained virtually the same during that time.

At Overland, the enrollment of African-Americans has remained the same since 2005 at around 700, while the Hispanic attendance has increased from 348 to 675. Overland would be a tough job for any teacher, and certainly not the most desirable to a majority of the teachers coming fresh out of college.

A school in this situation is doing its best to get test scores higher, maintain a strong attendance and graduation rate, with very little time for the faculty development. McKinney was a much-needed able body on the staff.

The budget for the Department of Education is only one-tenth that of the Department of Defense’s staggering budget of $672 billion for 2013, at $70 billion. If the education system is left to fend for itself with those willing to teach, this will not be the last case of bad judgment by a young person with too much responsibility.

We should end the unnecessary wars and involvement in countries few of our citizens know about, like Mali, Yemen or Somalia and invest in our young changing population, as well as take time to keep supporting our young, teachers, who are still young learners.

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Antonio Valenzuela

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