The Flagler County school district has rescinded a letter of reprimand to Wadsworth Elementary teacher Stacey Smith after Smith appealed the penalty. It had resulted from Smith telling her fifth grade students during Math class about an experience she had with “a beautiful Black boy” or “poor little Black boy” while teaching in Chicago at the beginning of her career.
The parent of a Black student in the classroom objected to Smith telling the story in math class, the way she described the Chicago boy’s neighborhood as dangerous and anti-white, and the way she told students that, in contrast, they should feel lucky or privileged to be attending school in a town like Palm Coast.
The district’s Office of Professional Standards investigated the allegation and the district’s Professional Standards Committee ruled that a written reprimand was in order “for the lack of professional judgement used when you told the students in your class a story about an African American child living in Chicago under distressed circumstances,” in the words of Robert Ouellette, coordinator of professional standards. “This story was not appropriate for the students. and not relevant to the grade level curriculum.” Smith was also required to take diversity and sensitivity training.
As is her right, Smith appealed the decision to the superintendent through the grievance process. She met with Bobby Bossardet, the assistant superintendent for academic services, on Dec. 20. On Jan. 3, Bossardet wrote Smith that “I have determined a reduction of the disciplinary action can be supported in this particular case and the letter of reprimand rescinded.” Bossardet cited Smith’s long career in Flagler schools, where she has been teaching since 2006 without blemishes, as a mitigating factor.
The penalty was reduced to a verbal warning, with the “lack of professional judgment” still the reason. There is no mention of the sensitivity training in Bossardet’s letter. He warned the teacher that any further unprofessional conduct may result in further disciplinary action, including firing, though that’s standard language in such letters regardless of the offense.
The district in December had released documentation of the investigation following a public record request–but not documentation of peripheral issues that arose after the parent lodged her complaint about Smith. The parent according to that documentation disputes the teacher’s characterization of the story as having referred to a “beautiful Black boy.” The phrase the teacher used was “poor little Black boy,” according to the parent.
That matter pales compared to what ensued, including a complaints of alleged threats or harassment the parent filed with the Sheriff’s Office. The documentation includes a series of social media messages the parent received from an individual who unleashed an obscene and demeaning insults against her for lodging the complaint against Smith: “Instead of listening to your adolescent son. Maybe you should’ve talked to the professional before siding with your son,” the email reads in its milder parts. “Who probably doesn’t fucking pay attention because he has the story wrong. Would you take advice from grown person or a child you fucking idiot?!??! I’m literally black so go ahead and say she’s racist.” The name-calling gets worse from there.