Natalie Munroe: A Tale of a Teacher in a Digital Age
“It’s not that those students don’t exist,” Lucabaugh says, still cautiously measured. “But I don’t think those students represent the majority.” Especially not at East, which he describes as “almost utopian.” Last year, the school graduated 99 percent of its senior class; 94 percent went on to college.
Even so, during that first week, Lucabaugh received more than 500 calls and e-mails from all over the country, berating him: “How dare you keep this woman from speaking her mind?” “You don’t support teachers!” “People like you stamp out the spirit of fine educators like Natalie Munroe!”
One call he took caught him completely off guard: “I’m buying a plane ticket, I’m coming to your school … and I’m ripping the spine out of your back … if you had one.”
“The school’s address is 2804 Holicong Road,” Lucabaugh replied. “Come any time. I’ll be here.”
The standing-room-only crowd at the Central Bucks school board meeting on February 22nd was just as fired up. Parents spilled out of the room, peering at the podium from perches in the hall. The main draw was Munroe’s “unprofessional comments.”
School superintendent N. Robert Laws announced that the district would make a decision about her employment while she was on maternity leave.
“Ms. Munroe has lost the confidence, trust and respect of her students, their parents and her colleagues,” he added. “Ms. Munroe, by her own actions, has made it impossible for her to teach in this district.”
MUNROE FOUND OUT that her future would be decided during her maternity leave while watching the school board meeting on TV.
Since being escorted from the building, she’d not heard from the school, aside from a few “hang in there” texts from colleagues. As soon as she started to defend her blog to the press, those messages stopped.
When reporters—supposedly alerted to the story through a tweet sent by a parent or student—first showed up at her house that Wednesday, her husband called attorney Steve Rovner, a family friend, to see if they might need to hire him.
There was no case … yet. But if the district fired her, there might be. What would be the “just cause”? That she blogged at least once on school time? That she took the blog down using her school computer?
“We’d subpoena school records to see how often other teachers logged on each day to respond to personal e-mail,” says Rovner, whose Feasterville office is covered with framed 8-by-10 glossies of him posing with the rich and famous—presidents, movie stars, David Brenner.
Rovner thought the legal line was plain: “The school may not agree with what she wrote, but she had the right to write it.”
When they spoke that afternoon, Rovner laid out Munroe’s options: “You can sit quiet and do nothing and let the press and school district and parents say whatever they want to say. Or you can get your side of the truth out there.”
Munroe didn’t waste time. On February 13th, she was interviewed on Fox’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine” show. On Monday, she appeared on “Fox & Friends.” That week, she did “Good Morning America” (which had battled the “Today Show” to get her) and CNN. (She turned down Dr. Phil’s request to fly her and her students to his studio for a smackdown.)