Two Broward teachers have been punished for referring to students of Middle Eastern descent as “terrorists.”
A math teacher at New River Middle School in Fort Lauderdale told one Muslim eighth grade student, “We don’t need another terrorist in this class” as the student tried to enter his classroom, according to an administrative complaint filed by the Florida Department of Education. The teacher, William Whalen, was also accused of grabbing an eighth grade student by the shirt and pushing him out of the classroom.
And at Western High School in Davie, a social science teacher referred to students of Middle Eastern descent as “terrorists” and made other inappropriate remarks, according to a separate administrative complaint. Nancy Victoria Dean was also accused of cursing at a student and “subjecting students to inappropriate forms of discipline that made them feel embarrassed.”
Both teachers were slapped with $750 fines and placed on probation for one year by Florida’s Education Practices Commission, which means the teachers will be more closely monitored and required to take courses on classroom management. The teachers reached settlement agreements with the commission in which they neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but decided not to contest them. The incidents occurred during the 2014-2015 school year, but the settlement agreements were finalized over the summer of 2017.
Dean is still employed by Broward County schools, according to Larry S. Davis, a Hollywood lawyer who represented Dean before the state commission. “She’s been leading a nationally ranked debate team for decades and she’s always put her career and the ethical responsibilities first,” Davis said. “Ms. Dean settled the allegations to avoid putting her student through a contested trial.”
Whalen resigned in March 2015, according to the Miami New Times. Neither Broward County Public Schools nor Whalen could be reached for comment. A lawyer representing Whalen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Whalen and Dean aren’t the first Broward teachers to get in trouble for referring to students as terrorists. In 2015, a Cypress Bay High French teacher was suspended for five days without pay and ordered to attend a diversity training program after she called a 14-year-old Muslim student a “raghead Taliban’’ when he walked into class wearing a hoodie. The teacher, Maria Valdes, also referred to the student as a “terrorista,” according to an administrative complaint. Valdes was later placed on probation for two years and fined $750, according to state records.