Teacher Fired after Right Wing Smear Campaign

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Hi and thank you for visiting my GoFundMe page. Perhaps you have seen this photograph turned meme floating around Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. That photograph is of me. My name is Najia Stallworth and I was recently fired after a blitz of targetted online harassment by what can only be described at Trump's unleashed followers. 

In July of 2020, I was hired by John Carroll to be the new AP US History, 11th Grade US History, and 12th-grade elective history teacher. At the time of my hiring, I was praised at being the right person and the right time for their school and explained how badly they wanted to bring changes of diversity, attitudes, and tolerance at their school. (Stay with me even though I know you already see the irony coming.) 

With very little guidance, I proceeded to create the required AP book selection. The books included "A People's History of The United States" by Howard Zinn, "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair, "Hiroshima" by John Hersey, "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown, and "Warriors Don't Cry" by Melba Pattillo Beals.  The list was approved.

I submitted my syllabus with the quotes "History does not belong to us, but we belong to it" by Hans-Georg Gadamer, and "Teaching history is rarely comfortable or convenient" by yours truly. It was approved as well. 

A handful of parents took offense and complained. They accused me of being a Marxist, anti-Catholic, spreading Nazism....it was absolutely insane. The school assured me they would stand behind me and to please just ride it out with them. When the parents didn't get the response they wanted, someone went out and found a two-year-old picture from my husband's social media, turned it into a meme, and sent it to right-wing propagandists and had it blasted out. It was spun as I was a Catholic school teacher who flouted this photograph, seeking attention, and deserved to be fired. They added my employer's name, address, and phone number on it. This image has been shared hundreds of thousands of times. 

People who have their timelines full of Trump flags, guns, and biblical quotes flooded my inbox with threats and misogynistic language. Thread after thread called for my firing, physical harm, and slanderous language.

Three business days after being asked to stick it out on social media, the principal and president of John Carroll School in Bel Air, MD fired me 1 hour into my school day. No apologies, no real explanation...just an escort to the parking lot by an armed security guard.

The trolls won and even got a two-fer out of it. My husband and I were in the process of purchasing a home and lost it because we would not clear financing on a single income. That was devastating. It was to be our forever home. 

Through the sea of vitriolic hatred, my students have found me and offered the kindest words of support and gave me home. Parents reached out and reminded me that I mattered as a person both inside and outside of the classroom. Strangers called me brave and said they were sickened by the digital smear campaign. 

My career may be over but I am not going down without a fight. I believe educators are human and are entitled to all of the protections of the Consitution, even when it doesn't align some  pack of trolls' dogmatic and political ideology.  If you can, I am asking that you help me raise funds to fight back. Legal counsel is expensive and as you now know, I have joined the ranks of America's unemployed. 

If you are interested, I have added two letters below. One was published as an open letter on Facebook to one of my harassers, Paul Lemon. The other was an email sent to the administration of John Carroll. It will help fill in the blanks. If you are uninterested...stop reading here. LOL (Teacher humor) 

__________________________________________________

The "Before":

An Open Letter to Paul Lemon

Hello Paul,

You don’t know me but I am the teacher whose life you are trying to destroy. I wanted to touch base since you felt entitled to pass along a photograph of me (which I do NOT regret) w/my name, employer’s name, address, and phone number. That photograph was taken in Clarksville, TN at a local event known as Jazz on the Lawn. It was a hot summer night and last minute, my husband and I decided to stop the yard work and go enjoy chilled wine & live music down the road. We didn’t get dressed up or worry about our appearances, we just went to take in the evening air.

As we were leaving, I remember seeing a car with a Trump sticker. Honestly, I do not remember why I was upset at Donald Trump on that day, what racist comment he had made, what lie he told to the American people. If I was a betting woman, I would say this happened right about the time he refused to acknowledge the policy he created of purposefully separating mothers and children at the border as being some sick “deterrent” to those seeking refuge. Anyhow, I digress. I saw it and thought “This man is a horrible human being” and lifted my middle finger with a manic smile/snarl. It felt good. We laughed and went home and forgot about it for two years.

Fast-forward, someone I have never met, in an act of equal parts cowardice and pettiness, decided to teach a newly hired “libtard” a lesson and lifted the photo from my husband’s private Facebook account. Now, I am not a child. I am well aware that what is posted on social media can be out there permanently whether intended for public consumption or not. But the fact is, it was not taken as a Catholic school teacher representing her school or as someone who indoctrinates kids with her own political beliefs. I was simply a grown woman who was sick of a man who lacks any form of moral compass. It was taken years before I had even applied for the position and until you splashed it about, my students had no idea of my political opinion of Donald Trump.

So now I sit and watch people refer to me as a fat bitch, a cunt, a whore, a slut, ugly, trash, and call for my firing. Some have called for my death…all over a photo you have taken joy in spreading. It is my opinion that you cannot talk someone out of depravity so I won’t waste my breath. I just wanted you to know you didn’t break me.

If I lose my job (which I haven’t), I will be fine. I have built a career out of loving my students through life’s tragedies. I have comforted them when their parents died, when they lost siblings to suicides, when they felt safe enough to come out to someone for the first time and when they confidentially disclosed abuse because they weren’t safe and knew I would fight to protect them. I have attended funerals and mourned alongside their families when they have died. THAT MATTERS. THAT IS MY LEGACY. Not you, not your hate, not your supporters.

Yesterday, I scrolled through literally thousands of degrading and hateful comments from the good Christians on your page. THOUSANDS. And in the middle of it, I saw a former student who wrote “I am proud of you, Mrs. Stallworth”. No one clicked like, no one acknowledged her but I saw it and it reminded me that not you, nor whatever lathered-up army that directs their manufactured outrage against me, can undo the love I have given those kids. I hope one day you realize the damage you inflicted. Until then just know “nevertheless, she persisted”.

Genesis 50:20

Najia Stallworth

The "After"

Hello Mr. Durkin,

You fired me yesterday after telling me repeatedly JC would stand behind me. You had me escorted to my classroom and off the premises within 60 seconds of telling me I was being fired for “behavior unbecoming to a Catholic school teacher”. My husband and I carpool and I had nowhere to go and no method to get there. When you had me thrown off the property, I was left walking along a road in a town where I didn't know my way around and away from any other place of business.

You did not allow me to respond or make any effort to allow me to speak so please afford me these brief moments you denied me yesterday.

a) You handled my firing HORRIBLY. You sat behind that desk and glared at me as if I had somehow done something wrong. I greeted you politely and professionally and you blurted out "I am terminating your contract effective immediately." The proper response would have been to ask me to sit, explain that while you believed JC could weather the social media attack/storm, it grew larger than anyone could have expected. You should have been kind and offered an apology. You should have exercised the Christian behavior I was told was the foundation of JC. Instead, you were ugly and cold...no different than those people online. I felt like your mask dropped, Tom. I felt like I saw the real you. For all of the talk about being more comfortable in Baltimore and being uncomfortable in Bel Air and the sea of Trump signs, you sure did slide into that role with ease. Power should not equal privilege. You glared at me for daring to have disrupted your life with contempt I have seen in other's eyes a thousand times. Check your privilege, Tom. Being in a workplace position to oversee staff does not make you "superior" to anyone. Your mask slipped and I saw you. For that reason alone, if you offered me double the salary, I would never work for you again. Had I saw that during the interview, I would have never accepted the position.

b) The word SPERM should not induce pearl-clutching at the high school level. The word SPERM being used in context with PERMS...of saying, yes I know if you move the S it changes into this word, and no we are not going to use it, should never be a firable offense. That was an excuse. You know it and I know it. The fact that you tried to use as the reason as to why you fired me speaks to "A". Shame on you for taking the easy way out and trying to blame me for this.

c) I see everyone online falling apart over my 2018 donation to Planned Parenthood. While it is NO ONE'S business who I donate to my charitable earnings to (yet another Christian principal disregarded by your parents and the lynch mob that came for), I will give you CONTEXT. My grandmother died an agonizing death from ovarian cancer, something that may have been discovered if she, a poor woman without insurance, had access to an exam and PAP smear at a low cost. My mother died an agonizing death of breast cancer that was caught far too late to save her. Planned Parenthood provides early breast cancer screening. She died in 2016, the worse year of my life. In 2018, I discovered I was BRCA 1+ and had an 80% chance of developing ovarian cancer and over 50% of developing breast cancer. I cried and mourned and ended up undergoing a double mastectomy, oophorectomy, and hysterectomy. As I was lying in my hospital bed, I donated money in their honor...hoping another young woman might find precancerous cells and a lump at their appointment and have a chance at life. Shame on you caving under the narrative that Planned Parenthood is a factory of evil and allowing me to be demonized for DONATING to a non-profit.

d) I sent repeated emails to RJ and Jake about the textbook.  I damn near begged someone to give me some direction regarding books and curriculum and all I heard was "You have a lot of academic freedom" and go figure it out. As the year began, I had to make a choice. Questions about books were not even responded to by Jake so I did my best. "The People's History of the United States " is an average, normal book used by high school and college teachers all over America. Not ONCE did anyone tell me there was a book that had already been assigned to students and that there were novels already selected. Not once did anyone provide me with those books, ask me to use them for this year, and suggest we could revisit the book choices next year. I had NO IDEA they existed. I have never worked at a school that had such weak academic leadership. It was stunning to me that people were spending $18K a year on staff who crank out lesson plans on the fly, without collaboration, without a framework, without end goals of a common exam to be sure the kids are receiving the basics. Your parents are paying for an echo chamber, not an education.

e) Your email practices are horrendous. You sent the first email about someone complaining about "A People's History of the United States" to me with everyone CC'd in without a single explanation and left me guessing. You again CC'd everyone in on the parent response. You do NOT antagonize a clearly furious parent by CCing in the person he is raging against when he is admonished in the response. You and Steve both pulled this stunt and now look at the situation. Forward the email after the fact, BCC for God's sake. From that perspective, you share the blame for this having been ignited. When that book complaint came in, you should have called personally, had me there on the other end of a conference call, and allowed myself and the parent to talk under your supervision and defused the situation. Instead, you humiliated your entitled, revenge-seeking base and one of them decided to get me (and you) back. Your authoritative "we stand behind our teacher and her book" email is now a joke. You have set a precedent and that genie will not go back into the bottle.

f) Five teachers... FIVE...had came to me privately when this began and shared their stories of how some parents came for their jobs at JC. You have a problem at that school. I suggest you look hard at how your pursuit of money has perverted education and created a culture of fear amongst your staff.

This was a Litmus test for the changes you insisted JC needs and thus, why you hired me. Based on the way I have been treated, I would say your lack of convictions to stand by what is right will continue to prevent any real or meaningful change to take place.

I am a good person, Tom. I have decided my life to educating kids. I have adopted a child...the most pro-life thing anyone could ever do. I don't lie. I don't steal. I don't hurt people. I treat everyone with respect. I donate my time, money, and energy to trying to help others. I am a great teacher and my kids excel. You saw that and hired me. Shame on you for throwing me away. Your students deserved better.

I was in the process of purchasing a home when you unceremoniously fired me and I lost the home. The ONLY way I can recoup my $5000 earnest money is if I have a letter of termination. Send. It. Now. You do not get to destroy my life any more than you already have. Finish the firing, Tom.

Najia Stallworth

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Stallworth Najia 
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York, PA
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