Employee May Have Violated Code Of Conduct Policy, Federal FERPA Law
“Our Children Are Not Your Political Statement” Parent Says
A Department Chair at Johnston Community College in Smithfield is under investigation by school officials after she reportedly posted a photo of a student in her classroom that was wearing a Donald Trump 2020 campaign shirt indicating it made her feel uncomfortable.
Tammy Bird is the Department Chair of Educational Technologies & Computer Sciences at JCC. She was hired in May 2018.
On September 12th, Bird, who according to her social media account is a gay woman, indicated she felt threatened by a student that wore the Trump shirt. Bird posted a photo of the student on her personal Facebook page with his face partially covered by the expression “OMG!”. The post also included the faces of three others students whose identity was not hidden.
Afterwards, some staff members at JCC and parents of students who attend the college reached out to JoCoReport notifying us of the social media post.
“Ms. Bird singled out this student on social media, barely hiding his identity and did not obscure the identity of the other student(s), and added political commentary including the fact that she felt threatened by his choice of clothing. If this were my child in her class I would be very upset,” one person said. “Our children are not your political statement.”
“How are we to know that the other staff and faculty there who saw this post are not now discriminating against that student? Had that student filled out a release to allow his image to be used? Even if he signed a release, is this an appropriate use of the image where he is being singled out for his politics by the department head?”
There are concerns the post could violate the student’s rights under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which prohibits schools and school officials from disseminating information about students, including their photos, without their express consent. The apparent unauthorized photo may have also violated Johnston Community College’s Code of Conduct Policy for their employees.
Other employees from JCC also commented and liked her post, even though posting the student’s photo raises numerous privacy rules. One high-ranking JCC school administrator reportedly wrote a supportive note on the social media post to Bird. The post has since been deleted.
“Is there a culture of this kind of thing at JCC?,” one person asked JoCoReport in an email. “The pictures are enough to see what one can expect from faculty at JCC.”
“It’s disturbing to see someone in a position of authority, such as this department chair at Johnston Community College, disparage a student in such a callous manner,” said A.P. Dillon, a conservative education blogger and Triangle area reporter.
“It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s political views, but it is quite another to post altered photos of them mocking them on social media, which only encourages others to join in. This is reprehensible behavior that is unbecoming of an educator and faculty member,” Dillon said.
JoCoReport reached out to Tammy Bird for a comment about her post and the investigation now underway. Bird did not respond to a direct email or to a request through JCC administration.
JCC President Dr. David Johnson released a statement saying, “I appreciate your inquiry. I am fully aware of the incident you indicate. The issue is a personnel matter and under investigation. Therefore, I am declining to make a comment at this time. Thank you for your understanding.”
Attempts to identify the student wearing the Donald Trump shirt to get his reaction have not been successful.
On October 5, 2018, a student at Harnett Central High School wore a Donald Trump shirt to a Friday night football game and was asked to leave by Principal Cindy Gordon. Gordon told the student the shirt upset some parents at the game. The student, Matthew Collins, was told to change his shirt if he wanted to remain at the game. He left and did not return. Prior to the game, students were encouraged to wear patriotic colors as part of “USA American Night.” Collins shirt had the picture of an American flag and the Statue of Liberty on the front. On the back it had the name ‘Trump’ with the number ’45’ similar to jerseys worn by athletes. President Trump is the 45th President of the United States.
Editor’s Note: The screenshot has been altered by JoCoReport to fully obscure the faces of all the students in the social media post reportedly made by Tammy Bird. Other than blurring their facial features, the screenshot has no additional edits.