Natalie Munroe: A Tale of a Teacher in a Digital Age

The Central Bucks East teacher who was suspended for blogging about her students is trying to change education—one blog post at a time

“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.)

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  • Tad

    Ready for a brave, new, and wildly unique teacher’s journal? One that’s deeply thoughtful, literate, and downright funny? Then enjoy A Dixie Diary, at http://www.adixiediary.com.

    The response from readers all over the world has been astonishing. Actually debuting during the midst of the Natalie Munroe business, this unique online journal shows a different look at what happens in the schoolhouse by a rookie special education teacher who loves his work and his students, but he expresses his thoughts and observations in a hugely different way than Mrs. Munroe. Sure, there are some intense student-teacher moments, even some choice words, too, but mostly it’s world-class hilarious and heartwarming … like reading a good book.

    It’s the look at a teacher’s madcap classroom world we’ve been waiting for. It’s simply mesmerizing.

  • Mary

    Most teachers encounter resistance from students, whether it’s apathy or obstinance, whether it’s done publicly or privately. Most teachers have sounding boards to vent frustrations to: spouses, co

  • Jeff

    Natalie Munroe displayed disastrously poor judgment, gross immaturity and–perhaps most damning–a startlingly low level of web-savviness. (Teachers should know at least as much as their students do.) By the time this is all over, she’s likely to have become an expert in only one thing: the laws governing libel and invasion of privacy.

  • Frank

    Your comment is one of a knee jerk reaction to a limited amount of information. Did you read the original blog? How can someone be held accountable for “libel, invasion of pri” when NO NAMES were mentioned, NO SCHOOL was mentioned, and it was ANONYMOUS! Get your facts straight!

  • Frank

    Your comment is one of a knee jerk reaction to a limited amount of information. Did you read the original blog? How can someone be held accountable for “libel, invasion of pri” when NO NAMES were mentioned, NO SCHOOL was mentioned, and it was ANONYMOUS! Get your facts straight!

  • Jeff

    It does not matter whether specific names were mentioned. What matters is that the targets of her vitriol were easily identifiable. Everyone in the school quickly knew who she was talking about. Not naming names is no protection.

  • Jeff

    Read this all the way through: http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/defamation. “To state a defamation claim, the person claiming defamation need not be mentioned by name—the plaintiff only needs to be reasonably identifiable.”

  • Jeff

    Go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation Web site. Search for: Online Defamation Law

  • Jennifer

    It’s a shame, since she posted this, the only thing she should be punished for is admitting she posted one of her blogs online at school. Otherwise, she is no more at fault than the children. This

  • Jennifer

    students referred to her as comparable to the holocaust…watching your parents and siblings being slaughtered in front of you? really? Grow up. This is our future, maybe in a few weeks? What a sc

  • teddy

    cant believe we cant read the blogs?