On Tuesday evening, the Flagler County School Board voted 3-1 to approve a list of personnel items–leave requests, suspensions, transfers, appointments, “non-reappointments.”
Among them: the non-reappointment of Abbey Cooke, one of the district’s more celebrated teachers–she was the 2017 Belle Terre Elementary Teacher of the Year. It was actually a firing. But by by categorizing it as a non-reappointment, the district took away Cooke’s right to appeal the decision.
“A non reappointment is not appealed,” Jewel Johnson, the district’s human resources director, said. “We work at the pleasure of the superintendent through the approval of the board. All of us do. So your contract is either renewed or it is not renewed.”
So ended Cooke’s 13-year career in Flagler schools (including a year at Imagine School at Town center), over a 14-second TikTok video she made of herself and some of her students, dancing to a somewhat raunchy song. The TikTok was unquestionably an error on Cooke’s part, especially when she’d been on the board’s radar for several years as one of the district’s most outspoken faculty members, openly and fiercely advocating for LGBTQ rights, and at times openly criticizing district policy or rigidity, to the displeasure of some board members.
Her firing was a surprise, and was not a surprise: Despite a stellar career with “highly effective” performance evaluations year after year, Cooke had been skirting non-reappointment all spring, then appeared to have secured reappointment, only for the TikTok video to trip everything up and open the way for the district to pounce. It did–mercilessly, if not necessarily fairly at every step.
Tuesday evening, several supporters appeared before the board to speak on Cooke’s behalf, as did she. It was not enough. Only Board member Cheryl Massaro voted against. (Board ember Colleen Conklin was absent.) The vote, which included acknowledgment of a critical teacher shortage, sent a chilling message to those who would challenge the board, or those who land on any board member’s hostile radar: the slightest misstep can and will be used against them.
During lunch period on May 11 Belle Terre Elementary Cook and a half dozen of her sixth grade students rehearsed then made a 14-second TikTok video, dancing to a clip from “It’s About Damn Time.” The song is by Lizzo, the ebullient Black, plus-size artist whose music The New Yorker describes as “blissful, sunny-side-up anthems, teeming with self-love and body-positive affirmations.”
But the song isn’t appropriate for sixth graders, at least not officially–not on an elementary school campus–even though Lizzo has huge appeal among tweens and teens. Nor were the six verses that made up the entirety of the TikTok clip a safe choice:
In a minute I’ma need a sentimental
Man or woman to pump me up
Feeling fussy, walkin’ in my Balenci-ussy’s
Tryna bring out the fabulous
‘Cause I give a fuck way too much
I’ma need like two shots in my cup
The words may be standard daily fare among students, especially as they enter those middle school years. In fact, one of the students in the TikTok wrote in her witness statement to the investigator that she didn’t think “anything bad about the song, because my mom let’s me listen and dance to that song.”
But the lyrics are also unquestionably in direct violation of school policy: obscenity, sex, drinking. As misjudgments go, Cooke’s was indefensible. Compounding the error, Cooke knew she was under the sort of district microscope more than most of the district’s 1,700 employees. But it’s never been her style to operate by the skin of her fears.
Within days of the TikTok going up, Jessica DeFord, the principal at Belle Terre, got a message from a teacher about the video–a teacher at Belle Terre who never had a child in Cooke’s classroom.
DeFord then spoke with a parent and Belle Terre Elementary teacher whose daughter was among the dancers in the video. By then Cooke had taken the clip down. But DeFord had received the clip, which was also disseminated to other parents of the children. The video, the person who forwarded it to the principal wrote in a witness statement, “portrayed students in a negative way.”
Whether in the public or private sector, employees’ social media blunders are as common as the common cold, but they tend to rise to the level of suspensions or firings only in the gravest cases–the teacher who makes light of the N word, the teacher who ridicules a student’s sexual orientation, the teacher who filmed himself drinking beer as preparation for the “idiots” he taught, and so on.
Cook’s case is more innocuous. She’s known to worship her students and is seen the same way by students and parents, as reams of testimony on her behalf attests. A typical example: “I had no idea how my little boy was ever going to be ready to make it on his own in middle school. Miss Cooke assured us from day one that she would support the students in any way possible that she would prepare them for the academic road ahead of them,” and she did, parent Shari Novek told the school board. “Ms. Cook has the unique and special gift of being able to unite and balance the classroom and the students. In a way many teachers are simply not able to do. Her students always felt loved and accepted.”
Testimonies on Cooke’s behalf could be summed up in the words Board member Janet McDonald used at Tuesday’s meeting, but referring to another teacher: “She is an award winning teacher and she brings back a lot of accolades and inspires our kids to do so much.”
The witness statements gathered by the district from the students in the video raised no objections or concerns, and one of them noted how they’d taken care to not associate the clip with the school: “We covered anything that had ‘Belle Terre’ or any information on it and made the video,” the student wrote. One of the students “wanted to be funny and crawl underneath the camera and out of it quickly. We were just having fun we didn’t think anything bad about it.” (All the students who appeared in clips had signed video and media releases on file.)
The student whose mother complained, however, noted in her witness statement that “the lyrics did have curse words and I think [inappropriate] language.” (She had misspelled inappropriate.) The students in their witness statements all noted that they were either in lunch period or during “free time,” so it was not during instructional time.
Cook acknowledged her error with unguarded sincerity, calling it “just a stupid, stupid mistake” as she pleaded her case through tears before the School Board Tuesday evening, while also noting just as accurately that the offense, her first in 13 years, “did not harm a child, did not cause any harm to a child.” (The students in the clip are as ebullient as the singer as they go through their moves.)
“I know I made a mistake,” Cooke told the board. “I apologize for that mistake. My punishment for that mistake was one day suspended without pay. However, I’m being double-punished for the same exact thing. Because I was terminated and then it was moved to a non renewal, which I can’t appeal, except to ask you not to approve that line item.”
The school district’s investigation initially had kept the reprimand in proportion to the offense and imposed the one-day suspension, unpaid. “Accordingly,” Robert Ouellette, the coordinator of professional standards wrote Cooke on May 27, “you are hereby reprimanded for enlisting the help of students in your class and posting an inappropriate video, which contained profanity and references to alcohol consumption.” (She had been placed on administrative leave with pay on may 24, pending the results of the investigation.)
The afternoon of May 25, School Board member Jill Woolbright wrote Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and Board Attorney kristy Gavin, cc’ing Ouellette, to say she was “appalled to learn about and view” what she described as “the disturbing behavior of a classroom teacher in front of and with her students, 2. that you have received video evidence, and 3. that this teacher was not immediately relieved of her duties until the conclusion of the investigation.” (Ouellette first got contacted about the case on May 19 and started gathering statements on May 23, suspending Cooke on May 24.)
Woolbright then demanded of the superintendent and attorney “a complete report of what has been done to date, what information you have gathered, an explanation as to why the teacher was not removed, and what consequences this teacher receives.” Then she recommended that Cooke “be released from any further duties with Flagler schools.”
Gavin wrote Woolbright that the process was following its course in accordance with policy, and that Cooke had been suspended. The next day Woolbright again wrote the same trio, “When does it get reported to the DOE?” (the Department of Education). Ouellette wrote her that the district had 30 days to report such issues, following “detailed procedure.”
Tuesday evening, Woolbright described her role differently: “School board members do not make personnel decisions,” she said in her closing comments from the dais. “We make personnel decisions when they come before us for a vote like tonight. We did know as School Board members that there was an investigation going on, and that there are names on our list. That’s all we know. We’re not allowed to know the details of investigations for an event that does come before the board. That’s how the board works.” She continued: “I didn’t even know what the investigation was about, or the results of the investigation, until I was getting emails from the public and I went to the person that did the investigation today and had a discussion, so now I know. But I can’t share any of that. That’s personal.” (Actually, verbal conversations aside, it’s all public record.)
It isn’t clear when the second investigation began or what began it, only no parent had complained further, though Woolbright had made her position clear in the interim, raising at least the appearance of a board member influencing the superintendent’s decision.
Cook’s remaining TikTok account was by then, or within days of Cooke’s reprimand, behind a privacy wall. The district re-investigated her by looking at several of 49 TikTok videos on Cook’s account, none of which identifying her as a Belle Terre teacher.
Ouelette did not look at the clips as any member of the public could–the account was set to private, and required a follower to be approved for access–but through the account of one of Cooke’s students.
In one, Cook is heard stating, “this is your teacher from the set of ‘iCarly’ and I want you to know there is power and there will be school tomorrow,” apparently a reference to a day in April when the school was without power for several hours. (iCarly was a Nickelodeon sitcom set in a school and aimed at young teens. It was recently revived on Paramount+.)
Additional video clips, the second investigation states, included “Video of her empty classroom set to music showing a version of a gay pride flag, video of Ms. Cooke on split screen with an unknown male presenter whereby the presenter describes his disagreement with the ‘Don’t say gay’ legislation and gender identity prohibition, video of Ms. Cooke asking students in her class to discuss her most annoying comments, video of her asking students to tell her what she says in class often, video of unknown person stating their views regarding Roe v. Wade, video with Ms. Cooke discussing why she is sitting in a parking lot on a Friday night waiting for her subway.”
There were a few clips showing Cooke at school: one of them is a still portrait of her 2021-22 sixth grade class with hearts and heart shapes springing from the portrait. Another shows the classroom in a recess, something Cooke describes as “organized chaos: I love these kids.” Another clip shows students relaxing, with Cooke saying: “This is what it looks like after two hours of standardized testing, writing. Time to relax and unwind,” she says. A few other clips show students singing or dancing to harmlessly bland teenybopper music.
Cooke questioned the relevance of the clips cited against her, or the appropriateness of the district’s search for good reason: aside from the gay pride flag appearing in her classroom (a flag that’s appeared in numerous district classrooms, displayed by teachers or students), the wording of the investigation conflates the clip taken in the classroom with clips taken away from campus, where Cooke’s right to free expression–as long as it does not transgress professional standards–prevails: the district cannot keep her from, say, taking part in demonstrations against the “don’t say gay” bill anymore than it can legally keep her from expressing herself about one political candidate or another–or about Roe v. Wade.
But by the time the matter reached the school board, Cooke was out of options.
“It’s called the Social Media trap. And I think so many of us are getting caught up in it, and so are our educators. There’s no doubt about that,” Massaro, the board member, said. “We’re going to have to do better and making sure that people understand what it is and how to avoid conflict and not do things they should be doing, because it could lead into this type of reaction that we had this evening. So that’s just something that that we’re all learning.”
One TikTok clips from Abbey’s classroom had featured students silently waving as if goodbye at the camera as the voice of Robin Williams in his Mork and Mindy days says, to the melancholy tune of a few piano notes, “I don’t know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know I’ve made a few people happier than they’d have been without me, and as long as I know that, I’m as rich as I ever need to be.”
Downturn Abbey says
She appears to lack good judgement to say the least. Any teacher or person in that position of responsibility should not be singing the F word and in the next line singing about a couple of shots. Im sure she will turn up at some other school district and they will give her a chance to continue her song. Good job School Board!!
Oh please like all these kids are angels. Better to connect with kids then be a stick in the mud teacher that no one likes. You get better results trying to learn what interests the kids.
I’m sorry but I disagree. I don’t know when teachers started needing to become friends to their students, but that is NOT what they need. What they do need is structure, guidance, and support. I’m in my 30s so im not THAT far removed. I grew up during the explosion of internet and social media which are completely toxic. Teachers should absolutely not be connecting with students in this way. Teacher making TikToks with her students? That’s where the lack of good judgment began.
I respected nearly all of my teachers and saw them as intelligent mentors there to lead, guide, and sometimes annoy me because that’s how it should be.
This way of raising our children to be our friends is setting goals them up for abject failure and that is why you see Millennials and Gen Z whining, complaining at every turn, overly sensitive, and offended about everything. It’s not even sad at this point… it’s terrifying because my generation is the present and Gen Z is the future.
I dont respect 99 percent of the teachers i ever had in school because they never respected me if u cant connect with your students you cant teach them anything the only teachers that taught me a thing that stuck are the ones that i am proud to say im still friends with on fb
Sarcastic AF says
Dude… You are a millennial lmaooooo. Stop talking about them as if you’re some boomer.
Have you lost your mind? Last time I checked (because I have children) this isn’t connecting with children, this is indoctrinating them into a world of filth! Parents don’t want them enticed into a world of filth. .. what kind of human being would? Rhetorical question.
Better than indoctrinating them with religion and hate. (I have kids too)
Michele Jones says
That school board couldn’t care less about the students clearly
Tired of Flagler's BS says
Sounds to me like you are the one who lack any sort of good judgement or intelligence. She did not sing the lyrics, it was a song playing over the video. As she stated herself, making the TikTok was an error, but a small error in no way constitutes the way Flagler county school board handled the situation. Sounds to me like (and by your name on this content) that you are an evil spiteful person who was not raised to know any better than to be an idiot. By your logic, I hope that any small mistake you make costs you your entire career and something your more passionate about than anything else in life. But oh wait, you probably have no passion for anything other than being a POS.
Percy's mother says
VERY nice. Someone (Downtown Abbey) writes their opinion on this matter, and TiredofFlagler’sBS starts with name calling and derogatory remarks. I would hate to meet you in a grocery store. You’re probably the one throwing bags of rice at some of the developmentally disabled people who bag the groceries.
Thank you!!! These kids in her class have been taught a Valuable Lesson by the School Board You are Not aloud to have fun in school! School Board Members have NO sense of Humor! I applaud this Teacher for her unique style of Teaching and having Fun while doing it! 😊
Right on! I’m a teacher.
The school system punished her double. It was political to go that route. The teachers will have a union soon because the board is abusing their power. Then they will complain about the union.
What concerns me is that this story refers to “several” tiktok videos posted by this teacher with her students. One mentioned her 6th grade class.
Did this “adult” teacher obtain “parental oermission” to post their children’s faces on a tiptok video, and then post it to the internet?
Wake up People, this is “Indoctrination”. See it for what it is.
If a teacher can hang a gay pride flag then why can’t another teacher have her Bible on her desk?
As long as she does not read it to the children, her Bible is no different than a guy pride flag.
The school board did the right thing. Why did it take so long?
School is NOT about fun, it is for basic education. Reading, writing, math, history, science, civics.
This is the problem with parents allowing their children computer games, tiktok, everything has to be entertainment.
Tell me, how do these kids make this transition when they take their first job, how do they perform when there is no entertainment on the job?
This teacher was wrong! I would be livid to find my child was part of such a video without my permission.
I think there are legal rammifications for this teacher as her actions included minors!!!
Could someone please explain to me why a teachers sexual preference has anything to do with teaching America’s Children.
This matter should be kept out of the schools! This topic should only be approached by the parents. Schools have no business teaching our children about sexual choice, etc. This is NOT the school’s right. Our children belong to us, the parents.
Keep your sexual preference to yourself. Children are our National Treasure!
We want scientists, scholars, doctors, lawyers, etc. This is the school’s job to teach fundamentals.
Each student will figure out their sexual orientation on their own.
School Board needs to make this very clear to ALL New Hires!
This teacher should not be allowed to indoctrinate our children.
She should never film, and post pictures on the internet without parental permission.
I doubt many of her tiktok posts were even made known to student’s parents!
So very. Wrong!
The commenter is misinformed. As the article notes, all the students had their signed media release forms on file. The commenter is also misinformed about bibles. While there is no prohibition for a school employee to have personal, religious possessions at school (wear a crucifix on a necklace, for example, or have a bible), there now is a prohibition on gay pride flags, or at least there will be as of July 1, in accordance with Florida law. As for “sexual preferences,” the commenter’s claims appear to be fabrications, since that’s not an issue in this matter.
When I sign a media release form for my 6th grader I assume it is For videos of school functions, school pictures and after school activities not dancing to vulgar lyrics on a teachers social media account! She clearly crossed a line!
Well, a Teacher CAN have their Bible on their desk… as long as they do not initiate a conversation or ‘make’ anyone else read it… the Gay flag’s I have ever seen hanging in a school were there for the students..NOT the Teachers!
The chemistry to create a setting in a public school takes time, balance, empathy and a God gifted talent to reach a set of kids that maybe no one else can! Period!
She made a mistake! The mistake was OVER PUNISHED. And although the Board, and public opinion will say she got what she deserved…the students were harmed more by the decision to release her than the dang TikTok video!
Susan R says
Here we go with the nonexistent boogeymen, like indoctrination, CRT, etc. And yes, school can be fun.
Kids aren’t supposed to have fun in school? Obviously you’ve never been a teacher or coach. When you enjoy something you retain information better. I’m sure you don’t mind religious or patriotic indoctrination in schools… 🙄
How exactly do you know these details? Did you hear it directly from Woolbright? Do you know Ms. Cook personally? Can you offer examples of her bad judgement? I bet you are one of those who calls themselves a “Christian”. As long as it doesn’t include understanding or forgiveness.
Im appalled says
As a former student of the beloved ms. Cooke go screw yourself. The reason our country is so messed up is because of homophobic bastards like you. I agree that the f word might not be appropriate for a young group of kids but don’t act like they haven’t heard it and with consent given from the children it can be understood that while a bit edgy it is reasonable. With the song being about body positivity and empowerment ms. Cooke always shows kids its okay to be themselves and stand up for what they believe in. Some of you fake old bastards one the internet really need to get a life and stop putting others down, you could take a trip to learn a thing or two from ms. Cooke in elementary since you wanna act like a fucking child.
Downturn Abbey says
Never was anything said about homosexuals like you seem to be implying. Should I assume all that great teaching you received from this person ingrained that in your head? Is your foul mouth the product of this teacher playing the same type of songs for you? In the end it really doesn’t matter because unlike Arnold, “she won’t be back”.
I love indoctrination says
Do you even know Abbey at all? Or are you just enjoying the moment at a strangers expense up on your soap box. Enjoy that limelight, push that agenda – go!
Mike mershon says
You kiss your mother with that mouth you’re the reason this country’s going to fall to pieces and kids need to be taught not played with sure you can have a little fun but f is not appropriate for any school age child or anybody for that matter
Susan R says
Lol, highly doubt the use of the word “fvck” is going to play any part in the country falling to pieces.
If you think foul language will ruin the country, I hope you don’t read the personal letters of the Founding Fathers. Plenty of profanity in there. But go off.
MAT Talley says
So basically someone didn’t like her so a political move was made and fired her.
Bunch of bull shit IMO
Gee, you and I are definitely the minority decision on this. But nevertheless, I agree. I was in the classroom both as a teacher and as a student. I remember the teachers that received the most respect, and they are not the ones dancing around to raunchy songs, nor were they spouting any political stance. They demanded respect and taught us to think about what we believed. But by the time I got into the classroom as a teacher myself, I found that teachers had become preachers, buddies or just a warm body in the classroom. I believe the folks on here who are putting down the school board are either kids or young adults themselves, or they never have been in a classroom as a teacher or helper. Do not judge these adults in charge until you’ve done this job yourselves. Go volunteer or substitute teach in your area schools! I promise, you will come away with a new perspective. Guaranteed.
Not talking about politics is a political stance.
Palm Coast Citizen says
No, it isn’t. It’s simply not discussing one side or the other. As a teacher, most especially of younger children, you should never let your own political affiliations be known to your students. You are in a position where you are looked up to and respected just by virtue of being who you are. That means you have a tremendous influence on those young people, whether you mean to or not. It’s one thing to discuss a topic, IF it’s relevant to your classroom and subect. It’s quite another to discuss your personal feellings on a topic. Not discussing politics is not taking a stance, it’s taking no stance at all and not allowing yourself to influence the most vulnerable and easily-influenced in our society.
False. Unequivocally false. You are so, so wrong.
Refusing to talk about our planet’s changing climate in biology class is taking a political stance by pretending our world isn’t burning.
Refusing to talk about racism endemic to our society in civics class is taking a political stance by pretending everyone is actually equal.
Refusing to talk about LGBTQ+ people in history class is taking a political stance by pretending they didn’t exist.
Refusing to talk about how capitalism favors people who already have money, and that the “pulled up by your bootstraps” story is a very, very rare occurrence, often happening because people just flat out get lucky, in economics class is taking a political stance by pretending there is absolutely nothing wrong with how our country’s finances work.
People who think “staying silent” is not a political stance are people who have not suffered from the injustices of our country. They are people who, while they may not have had an ‘easy life,’ still have benefited from the systems that keep others down so they can benefit, even if they don’t realize it. Women whose pregnancies put their lives in danger right now who ‘stay silent’ are only letting the government grow in its ability to dictate what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Queer people who are targeted with violence simply for existing who ‘stay silent’ are only going to get killed.
Silence is a political stance.
Silence is a political stance.
Silence is ascent to the status quo, it is not daring to question the world, or in this case not teaching young people the critical thinking skills they need to question the status quo.
Silence is failure to teach.
Thank you for being the adult among the commentators.
Exactly right. What this teacher did was wholly inappropriate and displayed a complete lack of judgment and professionalism. Teachers who do not act as responsible adults have no business in the classroom and demean the profession
Kelly Wagner says
You appear to be completely out of touch with the makeup of a typical 6th grader. The teacher did nothing wrong. As long as school boards such as this one are more concerned with appearance than with results, you will continue to lose your kids to boredom and mediocrity.
Nope, get a clue, or don’t have a child.
Please explain, in detail, how a single video (which she immediately apologized for and removed once she realized the mistake), when stacked up against 13 years of teaching without a single infraction and a boat load of awards for excellence in teaching displays a “lack of judgenent, to say the least,” a statement which implies extreme deficiency.
HOW COME THEN IF A COP MAKES ONE MISTAKE WITH TWENTY OR MORE YEARS OF SERVICE LOSSES HIS JOB, WHY?
Are you really comparing a cop making a mistake, which usually means a human being has been killed and robbed of their constitutional right to due process, with a teacher’s TikTok dance video filled with kids having fun and getting exercise in the process?
Hopefully the pendulum is starting it’s swing back to social sanity
Pissed in PC says
No sanity went out the door with the right wing nut jobs pushing their minority agenda of hate on everyone since 2008.
I totally agree! Any decent human being would even think of subjecting our children to this disgusting filth? Rhetorical question. Great Job Flagler County for catching this! And for acting quickly!
Steve O says
Although clearly the TikTok video/music choice was an error, I don’t think that should negate 13 years of dedicated service to school children. It takes a very special person to educate our kids, for the piss poor money they are paid and while navigating the complexities of the ever-changing reporting requirements, testing requirements and overall b.s. they have to deal with, an error once in a while is to be expected.
With that said, I would not be okay with any educator, police officer, fire fighter or any public servant using social media while in the course and scope of employment in a way that shows anything that should be private/personal. I don’t think any educator should show a student/student voice or anything identifying about a student in a video/photo on social media, without parental consent.
Should she be fired…err I mean not re-appointed? No! Slap her on the wrist and move on. Flagler and all area school districts are way behind the curve in recruitment and retention of effective/highly effective educators. This does nothing to further that process.
Pay them a livable wage. Have clear policies in place. Hold those who step out of line accountable in a reasonable and fair manner.
Old Guy says
She wasn’t fired for one TikTok. She was fired/not reappointed because she skirted the rules, and then did something unequivocally stupid. She clearly lacks the sound judgment necessary to do her job.
Edith campins says
Really? Once in 13 years? I guess you ‘ve never made. mistake?
I’ve made mistakes. But, when my boss told me not to do something, I didn’t go out and get as close as I possibly could to breaking other rules without technically breaking the rules. That’s immature. That’s what teenagers do. Teachers, and all adults in society, should set an example. If you’re warned not to break rules, then learn to follow the rules. If you don’t like the rules, then it’s time for you to move to another job or another profession. It’s called being an adult. The Board decided to force adulthood on this past-midlife woman who appears to suffer from some sort of arrested development.
I sure hope you hold the Jan 6 insurrectionists to the same standard you hold this award-winning teacher.
It depends on the case. Just like this teacher. In this case, she made a variety of poor choices showing poor judgment.
Cool, so you don’t. Got it.
Kelly Wagner says
It’s not like she slept with a student. That is an example of a lack of sound judgment. Not making a dance video. What era do you live in.
This is very well said! 💯 Agree!
Abby Cooke is a well -known and well respected individual and is known for how well she connects with both students and families. Did she use poor judgement in creating this TikTok video, perhaps, but it was no reason to fire or not “reappoint” a valuable teacher. Had Ms. Woolbright been removed from her position when she became nationally known for her poor judgement,(when she tried to have the superintendent arrested on the basis of a book being available in school libraries which Ms. Woolbright didn’t approve of), we wouldn’t be saying goodbye to Ms. Cooke and searching for another desperately needed teacher.
The dude says
These are the same morons that fully support obscenities in Flagler Beach on the corner of 100 and A1A every weekend.
Dedicated teachers, (er… pedophile groomers in the conneds vernacular), are hard to come by these days and you dump one because of a “questionable” post on social media?
EVERY single rising star in the party of choice for the majority of the board has a demonstrably long history of “questionable” social media posts.
What the fuck is wrong with you people?
She wasn’t fired for one TikTok. She was fired/not reappointed because she skirted the rules, and then did something unequivocally stupid. She clearly lacks the sound judgment necessary to do her job.
Ms. Cooke Supporter! says
She was not fired for skirting rules. She was fired because she stood up for her students and for all kids whose voices are not being heard nor protected. She was fired because she had the nerve to stand up to 2 people on the school board who see no problem with grown adults coming to the SB meetings and yelling at kids that they “Will burn in hell.” as well as threatening kids and parents with bodily harm. She was fired for giving a damn. She was fired because 2 people on the school board felt threatened. Those 2 NEED TO GO!!!
Thank you for your comments.
I agree the gestapo Qanon Woolnotsobright has to go.
Savanna Dacosta says
I am forever egregiously embarrassed & humiliated to have developed all 13 years of my academic career in this godforsaken county. Shame on you, Flagler Schools. I feel deeply for those whose students have yet to be succumbed to your ignorance.
Glad I Got Out says
Flagler County schools are joke and an embarrassment. They are forcing parents to remove the children as they become a danger to our kids way of learning and acceptance.
She’s done an outstanding job
during her 13 +/-years in inspiring students.
Her choice of material may have been somewhat unique (s
provocative) teaching aide; however it is not uncommon language And the vernacular is used in tapes by person s in public places, the media, businesses, meetings
schools, and many other settings. students have used or heard these words and doesn’t deserve expulsion
On the flip side and contrary to a commitment to Flagler schools, there’s one member of the board who (my opinion) should not be serving on school board. She quite clearly is biased against students attending our public school system.
During a conversation where she was representing the school board at a scholarship fund raiser, I asked what she thought of her , her response was “All students should be attending charter schools.”
The ORIGINAL land of no turn signals says
Ever hear 6th graders by themselves every other word F this,hoe,F that so I don’t think these kids will be damaged for life.Bad judgment but takes way to far.We need all new school board members.
Give me a damn break says
All of my kids are or have attended Belle Terre Elementary. I’ll never forget when my oldest child was entering kindergarten there… At that time the kindergartners were placed at tables near the six graders so that the six graders could help the new students walk to class. Literal first day of school and what do we hear next to us… Six graders talking about fellatio and not in those words. These people think that these kids are so innocent minded. I guess they forgot what it was like to be a hormonal pubescent six grader. Give me a.damn.break. This teacher is one of the few that can connect with these kids and make them want to learn as well as feel safe. Flagler County has made yet another awful mistake
Pissed in PC says
Wow! You already punished her with a one day suspension but to be total witches and not renew her contract when she’s clearly one of the more qualified teachers is a loss for the students and school system. I’m sure another school will gladly take her excellent reputation in a much better state than Florida cause this states schools suck!
Fed up says
This town is going to shit. Everyone deserves a second, third, chance. I don’t see a line at the door to be an underpaid teacher. let alone an elementary school teacher.
Must be nice to have never dropped the F bomb in front of your middle school kids
She let loose for a few seconds and is being fired.
Your glass house must be bulletproof
Percy's mother says
Ever heard of “Screwed me once, shame on you”, “Screwed me twice, shame on me” ???
Everyone gets 2 chances, after that, it’s time to move on otherwise, it’s perpetuating bad behavior.
She probably earned more salary than the board was willing to pay. Now they’ll try to replace her with a new graduate who’ll work for less.
Losing her job at the behest of people who probably have a “F*** Joe Biden bumper sticker. With the uncensored word. You know… the ones who decry our loss of civility.
I agree thousands times with you, Wow.
Who are the true snowflakes? Power hungry fascist reds that want you to do as they say and not as they do.
#1 consumer and viewer of pornography = red states
#1 most convicted of pedophile crimes = fascist reds
#1 murder rates = red states
#1 poorest and least educated = red states
#1 worst health care = red states
#1 worst education = red states
The list goes on and on. There is a clear pattern. I don’t listen to people that are hypocrites. Call me antifa if you want but guess what, so were my grandfathers, and my POTUS uncle that all fought against fascists in WW1 and WW2. I too, will fight against this narrow-minded fascism that is vomiting from the mouths of the fascist reds. Nazi ideology has no place here. If you don’t like freedom, true freedoms to be the individuals your god made all of us, then move to China, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. Your fascism will not win. There are more people here that don’t prescribe to your ideologies than do. Besides I think the Pillsbury Dough Brigade is beatable.
Oh cool. Now do which cities in those Red States are the #1?
Thanks in advance.
Michael Cocchiola says
Where I come from a mistake by an employee, if not placing people in dangerous situations, or a felony or something like that is punished by a reprimand or at worst a suspension, counseling, retraining, and a probationary where the person is evaluated on compliance with rules, regulations, and policy.
There is no doubt in my mind that uber-MAGA Jill Woolbright, who has been politicizing the school board since she was first elected, was hunting for Abby and finally got her wish to get rid of a progressive teacher.
Jusdgemental Jill is a JOKE says
100 percent agree! Judgemental Jill is a JOKE!
The hypocrisy is maddening. I can pretty much guess who a couple of these board members supported and continue to support when it comes to politicians both locally and nationally. In terms the right often throw around, this was nothing but a witch hunt. I agree that the teacher used poor judgement and should be reprimanded, but this punishment is beyond what was called for.
@This is a tragedy
Cuban Pete says
Seems like an overreaction to terminate over a tik tok video. If anything the fact that this teacher was engaging with her students should have ameliorated her actions. She will just go teach somewhere else and that community will benefit from her passion. We lose because we have narrow minded ideologues on the school board and not engaged leaders.
Felice Rucker says
OMG she made a mistake! To take away her job is an INJUSTICE!
The Geode says
“But it’s never been her style to operate by the skin of her fears”. Is that the new PC word for “stupidity”? Apparently, you don’t know who “Lizzo” is, seen her antics, or listened to her garbage. This is what happens when GROWN-UPS try to be “hip”, “woke” and “down” with children instead of teaching them and guiding them. She’s not there to be their friends and it’s a shame that in order to teach, you’d have to abandon your position and get down to their level or else you become “not cool”. Maybe those kids can have a car-wash to help with her rent…
Tired of these lunatics says
You don’t really know what happened do you? Who told you about this? Woolbright? McDonald?
Then how did she get Teacher of the Year?
The Geode says
The same way she got fired? I don’t know, you tell me…
Teachers can be disciplined and fired for dropping what some consider to be “offensive language” but, yeah, let’s make them carry firearms and expect them to function as armed security guards in the classroom. Makes sense. Not.
This was clearly a witch-hunt. Reclassifying her termination as a non reappointment for the sole purpose of preventing an appeal falls so far into unethical behavior it amazes me that no one has called it out. Sounds to me like that school board is nothing more than a group of bullies. Maybe they’re the ones that should be up for non reappointment.
Let's Talk About It says
I completely agree. It’s a witch hunt. Teachers are held to unrealistic standards, and Ms. Cooke made a poor decision knowing how carefully scrutinized teachers are. However, as an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ kids in our community, I have no doubt that Ms. Cooke was being watched by certain biased members of the school board, waiting for an opportunity to get rid of her. The push for “non reappointment” rather than giving Ms. Cooke an opportunity to appeal makes this even more obvious. This is yet another disgusting use of power by the overly political members of our school board.
Perhaps age is another factor here just the same. Sometimes employers rack up bullet points on a list to push the elderly into retirement. Granted there was a long list of incidentals that made it easier here. But this happens. I’ll bet they have no issues with reinstating as a substitute under contract, less the benefits of a career of contributions of course. They spin that as giving back to society. They are the lies of a career & employment. If there was some sort of pension & any other retirement benefits involved, the employee should’ve seen the hatchet job and retired to take what retirement benefits were available. How many times have we read about someone retiring in Flagler county/Palm Coast government ? Having one’s means to earn an income is how they reboot someone as more affordable, if not outright create a new opportunity, redefine a role, forcing a pay reduction. Is there a lawsuit here for age discrimination that might also include LGBTQ discrimination ?
Richard Griffin says
This is an outrage that a teacher can be treated like this , especially with no appeal. This is why so many problems like drive by shootings and young people have no respect for each other.
Why should they when their teachers are treated with a lack of respect by elected officials.
In another state this teacher would have a voice in court and would be treated more fairly.
This is a lesson that school children didn’t need.
She had obviously been on the radar for awhile and she knew it ,she chose to keep pushing it !
She brought this on herself!!!
Tired of the lunatics says
On the radar for what? There is noting on her record previous to this incident. I would suggest she get a lawyer and fight this. This is clearly a witch hunt. Woolbright and McDoanld don’t care about the students. They are radical fanatics intent on furthering their “political” careers.
Pissed in PC says
Exactly! Woolbright, McDonald and their group affiliation of Moms for Liberty are nothing but domestic terrorists towards public education and want it shut down. Several running are also backed by MfL, Christy Chong is one of them. They don’t believe in teaching the real truth. Research them and you’ll see they’re with that group. Make your vote count! Vote blue to save our schools and democracy.
To Pissed in PC.
Excellent characterizations of members of the Board.
Robin (the other one) says
Complete baloney on the part of the school board. There’s a dearth of teachers with the passion and expertise to connect with their students. She obviously did! 6th grade is notoriously difficult to teach (I’m a retired 6th grade teacher) and those who do it well should be treasured. One mistake and she should be able to learn from it and continue.
I’m sure she will find a position with another district that will appreciate her talents. I wish her the best.
What an atrocity to engage your students at their level, to find something probably relatable, albeit perhaps not the most PC lyrics. GUESS WHAT, thats what teaching is all about. Relating to the children you are teaching. Understanding that the world we live in has evolved. These generations of children are assimilating to a world that can sometimes be vulgar or uncomfortable to understand. It means embracing the constant stimulus being forced upon us daily. Moreover, MUSIC is art, poetry. It’s meant to be empowering and bring about our innermost feelings and connection to the world, and those around us. Forcing us to see things beyond our comfort zone. Sometimes feelings need to be felt. Sometimes that’s an integral part of the learning process both academically and emotionally. This woman made a connection and I can only assume tried to make it a teaching moment. However, walking on political eggshells is truly the dream. Don’t dance, don’t sing, don’t smile. “Work work work work work.” 😑
Percy's mother says
After reading the comments, there seems to be a preponderance of people here who absolutely hate living in Flagler County.
“Glad I Got Out”. “Tired of Flagler” “Fed up says”. “Tired Of Flagler’s BS”. Not to mention the former leader of the Democratic Party here in Flagler County.
If you people are so miserable living in Flagler, why are you still here? Why did you move here knowing its a “red” county?
Pissed in PC says
Flagler didn’t start out red until all these republican idiots from blue states wanted to come here to force their authoritarian agenda on the sane residents of Flagler county. Sorry but you will not minority rule everywhere you go. We had a nice place and great schools until you brought your hatred, intolerance and hypochristianism here. Take I-95 north to I-10 west and when you reach Texas you’re at your new home. I’m sure you’d be more welcome with your own kind.
Well, well, well says
Revenge is mine sayeth the Lord. This the same woman who stole money from BTES for several years and tried (along with many other culprits) to blame it on Dr. Culver? She has been guilty of MANY crimes over the years. This time, her “privilege”could not save her. My oh my, watch how they fall one by one. I’m watching and waiting on Anderson and DeFord. You’re just as guilty (along with many others). Your day will come. It all comes clean in the wash!!!!!!!
Sad that a dedicated teacher for a lengthy period of time would be treated like this. Yes, a mistake was made; I wonder how many mistakes the Board has made that the Public knows nothing about, and yet, they continue to reign their archaic ignorance on others. Instead of continuing with this pathetic 60’s “logic”, isn’t it time to get in the real world once and for all? This Board is not “protecting” any of these children. Are these parents that naive that they don’t think their kids are as “in the dark” as they are about what goes on in and out of the classroom? It’s nice to want to “protect” your kids, but they are going to be subject to the happenings outside of Flagler eventually and no one can stop it!! Better to prepare them now instead of later…don’t you think?
Deborah Canizales says
This is an outrage and an assault on reason. It is the open and notorious hunting of any school personel whom dare to support LGTBQ+ students. A go fund me account needs to be established for this brave teacher. These funds can be used for her personal support due to loss of income and more importantly to explore any and all legal recourse that may be available to her. She has fought for so many for so long. We need to fight for her with our dollars and our votes.
Sgt. Major says
Act like an immature student, get treated like one. And if 6th graders are using the F-word openly in class then its time to hire some Military Boot Camp Commanders. Yes Sir Yes Mam….that’s all the little rats should be saying in class.
Tired of this nonsense says
Yeah, that approach doesn’t work with 6th graders, but you’re welcome to burn yourself out trying. Why the hell would you want to nip the bud of their self-expression when most of their parents are likely cursing in front of them every other word anyway, have you ever even been to Flagler county?
Besides, anyone who would refer to students as “little rats” is clearly unfit for teaching in the first place, “sgt. Major”
Pissed in PC says
Little rats? Clearly you’re not fit to even be a drill instructor much less a teacher. I bet you don’t even have grandkids and if you do they’re not allowed near you.
If you think a boot camp drill sarge isn’t calling at least one person in their class the F word, then you have literally zero concept of what military life is like.
Bonnie crawford says
Ok so fcs is gonna discipline a teacher TWICE for a 6 grade class makeing a tik tok video with One bad word in it. but the Board needs to look at the broad picture and not target this person for a poor decision. what about the student that was arrested for pointing a gun at another student and was put on house/home arrest but is allowed to be in the Transportation Office to be babysat by Grandma while other have there children in the same office !! SMH🤬
Ban Books, Banish Teachers, “Governor” DUH is loving it. How many qualified Teachers are going to look at this and say “no way” will they teach in Flagler County? At what point are the Parents going to speak up and demand a full rounded quality education in Flagler County schools unhampered by Facists and so called Moms for Liberty? Or are you just okay with your students being indoctrinated into the Facist world of “Freedumbs”. VOTE!
Linda Cohen says
An excellent and award winning teacher, loved by her students; someone who really cared and was available to concerned parents in a way so few teachers are today, makes one mistake and is treated unfairly! She gave her free time to help so many, yet none of her value was considered. Can these “powers that be” actually look into a mirror and not find their own faulty actions? I doubt it.
Rehire her…Re-appoint her…Re-think what you have done….for the sake of the children !
How many parents complained about this teacher besides the One mother who is mentioned in the article? Is her Pension gone with her being fired? Sounds more like a modern day lynching. Wake Up Palm Coast Taxpayers! More facts on this are needed.
Bob Ziolkowski says
Letting her go is just an excuse to bring in a junior teacher that will be paid a lot less.
Probably not. I’ve taught here for 17 years and only make about 6k more than a first year teacher. Just saying..
Sad to hear this says
I’m really sad to hear this but I’m honestly not surprised. Abbey Cooke was a very good teacher but she was notorious for pushing boundaries. My children (who no longer go there) were totally not surprised.
Teachers are held to a higher standard of conduct and she did not always adhere to that. This was a severe lack of judgement on her part. Do you really need to make Tik Tok videos at all with the children? Doesn’t that muddle boundaries?
I don’t, however, agree with the way they let her go.
One strike and you’re out !!!!!!!
Longtime teacher says
It was not a “stray” F-word. She choose/allowed the song. This article is obviously biased.
My vote’s taken says
We all know the non-issues treated like a federal offense and creating problems where there are none is what the right wing loves to do. Make a huge deal out of something that means nothing and ignoring the vital needs of student mental health and free school lunches etc.
This is happening on the State level every day with desantis and his false claims trying to create outrage amongst trumpers so they’ll vote for him. Students are not enlisted in the military, they’re in school.
The far right wants to undermine public education so they can deny education to poor people. They, (American oligarchs) need a steady supply of manual laborers to work for them and who won’t question anything and the undereducated are the ones who vote for them.
If people don’t stand up against these neo-fascist small town elected officials as well as on the State and Federal level, we are headed toward the downfall of democracy. It starts with the midterms people. Your vote matters in August. Vote blue!💙💙💙
Laura H says
So a jealous teacher messages her “concern” about Cooke connecting with her students via a popular (though technically inappropriate song), principal researches & gathers statements that no parent was offended, no students were harmed, and that it was not during instructional time (fact that middle schoolers actually want to hang out with their teacher at lunch should be tribute enough to her vibe) . Boss gives a 1 day suspension. Then school board got involved and went ballistic.
Bet that original “concerned adult” was scrolling other peoples Facebook pages in her quiet classroom on a district computer. Wonder if it was during instructional time … maybe the school district should investigate THAT !
Mom’s for Liberty is a misnomer. All they want is to control what you are allowed to hear, empower them, then they will have the liberty to run your schools as they need to nullify you. A School Board as representing the interests of Palm Coast citizenry at large will be nullified completely.
She should have received a written reprimand first her first incident. I am sure many six graders today hear worse than the F word. Listen to music today. While it may not be appropriate, ther Teacher should have been reprimanded and given a chance to redeem herself! We live in a country that is so hypocritical and full of hypocrites, including the School Board members. This incident should have never gotten to the Board of conservative hypocrites!