An atheist middle school teacher is under investigation by her Florida school district after she posted a complaint about her students — calling them "little cretins" who've "bullied and harassed" her over her beliefs — on a private Facebook page that was screen-grabbed and made public.
Susan Creamer, a teacher at Merritt Brown Middle School in Panama City, had sought advice from the Atheists of Bay County, writing that "a bevy of boys in one of my classes ... are taking turns either inviting me to church or leaving (anonymously) flyers inviting me to church events."
Image source: WJHG-TV video screen cap
She added in the post: "Every time any child sneezes, they loudly say 'God Bless You!' and look in my direction. I have complained twice to the principal — once last month and once today. She has spoken privately to one or two of the little cretins, but it seems to do NO GOOD. I am feeling bullied and harassed. It has become intolerable. I don't feel like talking with the parents will stop the inappropriate behaviors because, for all I know, the parents are encouraging them."
Creamer on Monday did not immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment.
Karen Tucker of Bay District Schools told the Northwest Florida Daily News it's against school policy to criticize students either in person or online and that Human Resources is investigating and examining the Facebook post in question, as well as other comments from Creamer on the Atheists of Bay County page.
Image source: WJHG-TV video screen cap
Tucker added to the paper that writing disparaging remarks about students — even on a closed Facebook page — is a violation of school policy.
"I don't think it matters [if the page is closed], because eventually someone else is going to see it posted, which is what happened," she told the Daily News. "People were re-posting. If you said things on there, which she did, about students, no, I don't think it matters."
Tucker also noted relevant Bay District Schools' policy to the paper: "Teachers are encouraged and trained to keep clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives to ensure that the classroom remains a neutral and supportive environment. This training and related School Board policy includes guidelines for interactions on all social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook. We do not condone the use of disparaging comments about our students in any form, on any social media platform or in any school."
If the investigation concludes that Creamer violated the policy, Tucker told the Daily News she could be disciplined.
Nick Fish, national program director of American Atheists, told TheBlaze that if Creamer discussed principles of atheism in class, "that could potentially be an issue. For example, saying in class that all religions are wrong or insulting believers would be impermissible. But that doesn't appear to be what has happened here. Simply indicating that she is an atheist isn't inappropriate."
Fish added that it's "frustrating that the administration hasn't handled this or given support to the teacher" and that Creamer instead is being investigated: "It certainly speaks to the stigma faced by atheists that a teacher can be harassed by students over her religious beliefs, or lack thereof."
Nick Fish on Fox News in 2012. (Image source: YouTube)
Jeromy Henderson, a member of the Atheists of Bay County page, told the Daily News the district's investigation "has turned into a modern-day witch hunt." He acknowledged that Creamer's comments were "off-putting, but she was just looking for advice about how to deal with them. She'd already been to her principal and was not getting results."
Henderson added to the paper that Creamer's comments were made public by a group member who took a screen shot of her comments and then left the group.
Crystal Moseley wrote a letter to school superintendent Bill Husfelt, the Daily News reported, noting that Creamer "should not be discussing her religious preferences (or lack thereof) with any of these students. Had she not been proudly boasting of her atheism these children would not know of her personal beliefs and I would not be addressing this situation. Secondly, as an adult in a professional occupation her choice of words to describe her students is completely unprofessional and completely out of line. Third, for her to seek out suggestions from a group on social media of how to handle her students (my children) has me outraged ..."
Rebecca Warfield told TheBlaze that Creamer taught her during 7th grade almost a decade ago, but she doesn't remember Creamer "ever speaking of her atheism in class."
Other commenters on Creamer's Facebook page noted that she very well may have never mentioned her atheism to students — but then again, her beliefs are already quite public in her Facebook bio, which indicates she's "a wife, mom, teacher, actor, gardener, baseball lover, atheist, loyal friend, and proud nerd."
And while there's a huge mixed bag of comments on her page, both supporting and criticizing Creamer, several of her allies wrote that if her students have been invoking God in class just to get under her skin, they haven't been acting like Christians.
"Susan, as a Christian, I beg your forgiveness for my fellow believers for not seeing this for what it is: out of control students. And for judging you using the rules that we are supposed to apply to OUR OWN LIVES. Not yours," one commenter noted. "I love you, my friend. I am praying for these hypocrites to find other fun."
Warfield has a different take.
"I do not see inviting her to church as harassment ..." she told TheBlaze. "As for if they were doing it out of spite from her lack of religion, she should have kept it professional and knew the consequences of opening up her personal life to children who know they have freedom of speech."