Sacked teacher's whiteboard note goes viral
A FLORIDA high-school teacher who was sacked for giving students zeros when they didn't turn in homework has been flooded with support after her farewell message left on the class whiteboard went viral.
Diane Tirado said the West Gate K-8 School in Port St Lucie had a "no zero" marking policy, meaning the lowest possible grade a student could receive was 50 per cent.
The 52-year-old was sacked on September 14.
The following day, she snapped a photo of her leaving message and shared it on Facebook. "Bye Kids," it said.
"Mrs Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50 per cent for not handing anything in. (Love) Mrs Tirado."
The post, which has been shared more than 2000 times, generated outrage. One Facebook user said it showed what was "wrong with our society today".
"The people that will run our future (are) the people still getting credit for doing nothing," she said.
Ms Tirado, a teacher of 17 years, started working at the school in July. She told local TV station WLOS she gave students two weeks to complete a notebook project, and some didn't turn it in.
It was only then she found out about the marking policy. "NO ZERO's (sic) - LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%," the Student and Parent Handbook says in bold red letters.
"If there's nothing to grade, how can I give somebody a 50 per cent?" she told the TV station. "I'm arguing the fact that you don't get something for nothing. I want the policy changed, and it's not just here."
She added that there was a zero per cent grade for "incomplete" work on the same marking table, adding to the confusion.
Her termination letter didn't state a specific reason, only that she was still on probation and could be sacked without cause. Ms Tirado said she couldn't sue, but she wanted to "spread the word".
"I'm so upset because we have a nation of kids that are expecting to get paid and live their life just for showing up and it's not real," she told the TV station.
After the story went viral, she posted a follow-up message on Facebook saying she "took on this fight because it was ridiculous".
"Teaching should not be this hard," she said. "Teachers teach content, children do the assignments to the best of their ability and teachers grade that work based on a grading scale that has been around a very long time.
"Teachers also provide numerous attempts to get the work collected so they can give a child a grade. By nature, most teachers are loving souls who want to see students succeed."
On Tuesday, St Lucie Public Schools superintendent E. Wayne Gent defended the "no zero" policy, saying it ensured struggling students didn't fall behind.
"You want to make sure that the (grades) themselves are not punitive in nature," he told Fox News.
"Students are required to meet certain standards. If you don't meet it on the first shot then we're going to give you other opportunities to meet it."
Mr Gent said students who have difficulty don't feel "positive academic pressure" from simply being given a zero.
"The easy way is to say, 'Okay, we're going to move on and leave you behind,' and that student is going to be unsuccessful," he said. "That's not the culture that we've established in the school district."
He insisted 50 per cent was still a failing grade.
"We're not making it easy for students," he said. "It's holding them accountable. It's rigour. It's hard work. We want to make it more difficult to fail than easier to succeed."