Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade Schools: No infringement of principal’s free-speech rights

Alberto Iber, principal of North Miami Senior High School
Alberto Iber, principal of North Miami Senior High School Miami-Dade Public Schools

The removal of a Miami-Dade high school principal from his job after he posted a message of support for the police officer at the center of a racially charged controversy in Texas prompted a quick rebuke from observers who wondered whether the principal's right to free speech had been infringed.

But Alberto Iber, who until this week was principal of North Miami Senior High, hasn’t been fired for his Facebook comment.

Despite harsh words from Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, and the announcement Wednesday that a replacement would be named for the school, the Miami-Dade County school district says it only reassigned the principal to administrative duties temporarily — “pending the outcome of [an] ongoing inquiry.”

“Iber is still a principal,” schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said in an email.

In a statement, the district said: “This is not an infringement on freedom of speech, but rather our standard procedure when dealing with matters that have the potential to interrupt the learning environment and operation of a school.”

Iber found himself at the center of a nationwide controversy after he commented this week on a Miami Herald story about a white police officer in McKinney, Texas, who briefly waved a gun at black teens at a pool party and threw a girl to the ground. The encounter was caught on camera and fueled an ongoing debate about how law enforcement treats minorities.

The officer, David Eric Casebolt, resigned after his chief called his actions “indefensible.”

But before the officer stepped down, Iber defended Casebolt in a Facebook post that included Iber's picture, name and title of school principal.

“He did nothing wrong,” Iber said of the officer. “He was afraid for his life. I commend him for his actions.”

Iber's stance drew immediate criticism. The student body at North Miami Senior High is 99 percent minority. The city of North Miami, in Northeast Miami-Dade County, is predominantly black.

Ambrose Sims, a retired African American police officer, called Iber “part of the problem.”

Iber told the Miami Herald he meant to post the comment anonymously and said he regretted it. It was quickly deleted, but not before the post was captured in screen shots and circulated online.

Marie St. Hilaire, a paraprofessional at the school, said the principal should simply be allowed to apologize and come back.

“I don't think he meant it in a negative way, because he supports the police,” St. Hilaire said. “He's a wonderful principal, to tell the truth.”

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