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Teacher Who Had Students Write Get-Well Letters to Cop Killer Fired

By    |   Wednesday, 13 May 2015 09:11 PM

A suspended New Jersey teacher has been fired for assigning her third-grade students to write get-well letters to convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

First-year Forest Street Elementary School teacher Marylin Zuniga, in Orange, N.J., was booted by the school board early Wednesday, Superintendent Ronald Lee told NJ.com Wednesday, without elaboration.

Her lawyer, Alan Levine, lashed out at the firing, saying school officials had "abdicated their responsibility to the community and to the children of the school district," and lamenting the loss of "a teacher that everybody agreed was a remarkable teacher."

"There isn't a school district around that wouldn't be happy to have Marylin Zuniga teach in it," Levine told the news website.

He said Zuniga is considering legal action.

According to NJ.com, Zuniga claims the kids got the idea for the letter-writing after she told them the convicted killer was gravely ill; the news site said the teacher later posted a tweet about the letters getting delivered to Abu-Jamal.

The convict, who was formerly on death row, is serving a life sentence for killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. He's been hospitalized with complications from diabetes, the news site notes.

School officials suspended Zuniga with pay April 10, saying she never notified officials or parents about the assignment.

The flap got to the attention of civil rights activists and educators who justified the letters as a lesson in compassion. But some parents and law enforcement officials were enraged.

"Even when I heard that the letters were written...because of compassion, you could've written to somebody in a nursing home," community resident Gloria Stewart said, NJ.com reports. "You could've written to someone else that was sick to show compassion."

After Zuniga's suspension, Chris Burgos, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, lashed out at her, saying she'd "brainwashed" her young students, NJ.com reports.

Zuniga tried to plead her case before the board vote.

"I stand in front of you today because there's a community behind me, and because there's people here of the community, of the Orange community and the surrounding communities, that support me," she said, NJ.com reports.

"There's people around the nation who support me, who believe I need to be reinstated and I believe that I need to be reinstated.

"My students need me in the classroom. My students have requested that I come back to the classroom," she added. "They miss me and they've been asking for me, and that's what's most important. No one is thinking about the students."

Among supporters showing up at the board meeting was Essex County Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake, who scolded members they "ought to be ashamed of yourself for trying to crucify her."

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A suspended New Jersey teacher has been fired for assigning her third-grade students to write get-well letters to convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
new jersey, teacher, cop, killer, letters, fired
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 09:11 PM
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