Tongue Slip Puts Teacher’s Job in Jeopardy

Tongue Slip Puts Teacher’s Job in Jeopardy


A twice-awarded teacher of the year is fighting for her job because of a slip of the tongue. At the end of what she has termed an “extremely bad day,” Texas math teacher Shirley Bunn snapped at a student who was badgering her as she tried to help him.

“I’m Mexican. I’m Mexican,” the student kept saying as he requested Spanish-language forms. She tried to tell him that those were available in the school office, but he kept interrupting to repeat, “I’m Mexican.”

“Go back to Mexico,” she eventually retorted.

Bunn was put on paid administrative leave after uttering those words on September 30, 2011. This past week an independent hearing examiner has recommended she change schools rather than be fired. She was shocked to hear herself at the time.

"It was almost instantaneous. I thought, 'God, I don't believe that came out of my mouth,'" said Bunn to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It was a very, very hard week, the end of six weeks. It was late in the day. It was a Friday. We were on the third day of the first curriculum assessment and I knew it wasn't going well. It was just an extremely bad day.”

Independent Hearing Examiner Jess Rickman III gave Bunn a pass, recommending that the school board not terminate her position. In a 23-page opinion he found that the context of the remark and its lack of applying to anything but the one teenager’s words in the heat of the moment meant the comment was not a statement about race or nationality and thus should not get her fired.

The school board will decide next month whether the 63-year-old teacher gets to keep her job.

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myche's picture
Submitted by myche on
I get what the student was saying. The student didn't speak Spanish, he spoke Mexican. That is the Mexican version of Spanish. The student wanted the Mexican-language forms. Each Latin American country speaks its own version of Spanish which they identify with their country. When I lived in New Mexico my family had a foreign exchange student from Uraguay. When she heard the Spanish speaking stations broadcasting there. She said it was Mexican and not the language she spoke. The different Latin American countries recognize the differences. Just like we speak American and not British English. I was a teacher and can sympathize. But we have to realize that students who grew up in another country have a different perspective than those that grew up in the United States. And having taught on or near the Navajo reservation mices does make sense to me. Its several collections of mice which inhabit different locations. Mouses are a different collections of a single mouse in different locations. Other language speaking groups may not be able to understand our simplistic thinking and our inabilility to think in collective groups. Don't fire the teacher educate her so she doesn't make the same mistake again. By the way I am a Celtic/Scandiavian transgender female who grew up in the Dakotas. And I figured it out.

ppmickey's picture
Submitted by ppmickey on
Everyone has a really bad day once in awhile, probably more than once in awhile. Should she be fired for what she said while so frustrated? I don't think so. It's surprising what teachers have to put up with from students on an every day basis. Do people have a slip of the tongue at times? Yes. Most slips of the tongue are usually pretty foul mouthed rather than what she had to say and if people spent one week as a substitute teacher, in grade school, junior high and high school classes, they would have a different opinion of some comment made in exasperating circumstances. She is already sorry for her comment, enough is enough. The school board should keep her. Everyone has a bad day and slips up.

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