Teacher Whose Third Graders Sent Cards to Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks Out

Marylin Zuniga remains suspended with pay.

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Last week, we told you about Marylin Zuniga, the New Jersey school teacher who instructed her third graders to send get-well cards to convicted cop killer and lifetime prison inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been ill of late. Zuniga was suspended with pay, and now she has spoken out in an effort to explain herself.

The school board in Orange, where Zuniga is employed (at least for now) is currently considering her future, after outrage erupted over the get-well cards, which were also sent by a group of Philadelphia high school students. Zuniga and her supporters addressed the school board on Tuesday:

Here is part of the statement that Zuniga delivered to the board:

I loved my children the moment they stepped into my classroom. As a teacher, I am well aware that my role as an educator is not limited to the classroom. Knowing this is what inspires me to be so active in our communities.

Since beginning my first year of teaching in September, I have had the privilege of working on multiple projects that provide great opportunities for children in our communities. For example, I helped establish “The Maroon Project” — a new community organization based in Newark. I also coordinate Newark’s first and only “Books and Breakfast” program: a monthly program that provides free books and healthy breakfast local youth and families.

On February 5th I presented a do-now that stated: “What is the main idea of this quote: So long as one just person is silenced, there is no justice.” This quote is by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

In April, I mentioned to my students that Mumia was very ill and they told me they would like to write “get well” letters to Mumia. The most important fact to highlight in this entire matter is my love for, and commitment to, my students. I have always put my children first and I have never and would never put their safety at risk.

I was very proud of my students work and I shared this on social media. I do apologize to parents, students and community members for having done that. My parents, co-workers, and students have always been aware of how much I care for my students and their families and for the entire Orange community. The love I have for all my students as well as their families and the community of Orange remains my first priority.

There is nothing I want more then to remain teaching at Forest Street Elementary School. I made a mistake but I have learned from that. Given my record, I do not believe this one episode justifies my termination. However, if the Board has decided to terminate me, then I am prepared to submit my resignation to avoid the consequences to my career that would follow from termination.

The school board is scheduled to reconvene on May 12th.