Natalie Munroe: A Tale of a Teacher in a Digital Age
“I wish this hullabaloo hadn’t happened at all,” she says.
In fact, it wasn’t until she saw her photo on the five o’clock news on the day she was suspended that she realized this “hullabaloo” was big.
NBC 10 outlined the basics—details that would be repeated over the next several weeks, from Doylestown’s Intelligencer, to the Philadelphia Inquirer, to the Associated Press, to “Good Morning America,” to Bill Maher, to CNN, to the BBC:
A teacher from Bucks County had blogged that her students were “a bunch of lazy jerks,” “out of control” and “rude.” In one post, she listed comments she wished she could write on report cards: “lazy asshole,” “frightfully dim,” “rat-like,” “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”
“I made the determination to suspend her from her duties,” Lucabaugh told NBC 10, taped in his office at East.
“I think she should be fired,” senior Helen Rowland chided on air.
Munroe, typically opinionated and chatty, watched her TV that evening in silence, mouth hanging open, stunned not only by how her blog was being interpreted, but that the story had gone so public so fast. She’d spent the day in lockdown in her Warminster home, towels hung over the picture window, ignoring knocks from NBC 10, CBS 3 and newspaper reporters.
“I was seeing footage of students in school,” says Munroe. “Someone said, ‘Okay, press, come on in’? I didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
“We were so over our heads,” says her husband, Brian, a Radnor policeman on medical leave. He watched the news alongside his wife and tried to distract their three-year-old, Lily, who’d kept asking all day why strangers were walking around their yard.
Days later, flanked by an attorney, Munroe, 30, would finally spill her side to the cameras: She never thought anyone would find the blog. She never named any kids, the school, the district or the state where she lived. She never even named herself, posting as “Natalie M.,” though she did include one photo—a personal snapshot taken in her living room that was now being downloaded by strangers and plastered on TV. Her attorney noted that the First Amendment protected Munroe. In other words, she’d done nothing wrong.
“I’m sorry it was taken out of context. But I’m not sorry I wrote it,” she explained on TV and in newspapers and on radio shows. It’s a stance she’s still not backing down from now, two and a half months later: “I stand by what I wrote.”
Lots of people have applauded her for it. In the media firestorm that erupted, MSNBC conducted a poll of more than 84,000 people: Ninety-six percent thought Munroe should not have been suspended. Supporters from across the country wrote “Go Natalie!” on her blog.