A group of parents in Orange County want school officials to bring back a teacher who is accused of using kids as “political pawns” in a series of TikTok videos, some of which were about book bans.
After posting the videos, Ethan Hooper, who teaches sixth-grade language arts at Howard Middle School, was put on administrative leave and could be fired by the Orange County school district.
In one, Hooper steals “Harry Potter” and other books from kids, and the caption says, “From the point of view of a Florida teacher.” In another video called “POV: a Florida school detention,” students say that they will only read approved books and then take a book from a classmate who is reading in a closet.
Hooper’s videos have been shared on a social media account called “Libs of TikTok.” As of Wednesday, more than 1 million people had watched them. Libs of TikTok is popular with conservatives like Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and Gov. Ron DeSantis. It makes fun of videos posted by liberals on social media.
DeSantis and Diaz both voted for a new law that says media experts have to look over books to make sure they don’t have any inappropriate content. Because of this, some schools have taken away or covered books that haven’t been checked out yet.
Libs of TikTok also shared a video called “Black History Month… the shortest month of the year” in which white students pretended to serve Black students.
Orange County Public Schools said in a statement that they will not let anyone, even a classroom teacher, use children as political pawns.
The district also said that any employee who makes content with students in order to “use them for political purposes” will be taken out of the classroom, put on administrative leave, and have their job quickly ended.
Superintendent Maria Vazquez said in a prepared statement, “I am appalled by the behavior and judgment of the teacher who posted the inappropriate videos and used his students as political props.” “This is not free speech; it is using our students for political purposes, and our school district will not stand for it.”
But some Howard Middle School parents say that Hooper is one of the students’ favorite teachers and that they love him. They are sending emails to school leaders asking them to hire Hooper back. They also plan to talk to the Orange School Board about their worries.
Alexis Edouard, whose son is in Hooper’s class, said, “We were very upset to hear that he had been put on leave.” “He’s a favorite teacher of my son’s. I feel like Orange County schools need more teachers like Mr. Hooper. It’s wrong to put a teacher like him on administrative leave.”
Edouard said she has talked to about a dozen parents who will support Hooper in public, and she thinks that more parents will join the effort in the next few days.
Ronette Arthur, another parent, said that her son has been in videos with the class, but not the controversial ones that Libs of TikTok shows. She said the kids came up with the skits on their own, and she didn’t worry about what Hooper posted.
Arthur said, “We think he’s a great teacher.” “He’s young and creative, and the kids love to learn in his class. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.”
Some parents think the school district made the right choice, but others disagree.
“I would be upset if one of my child’s teachers used him or her for political gain,” CJ Johnson told News 6 in an interview. “What if I don’t believe that, and that’s not what I’m going to teach my kid?”
We tried to talk to Hooper on Wednesday, but we couldn’t reach him.
School officials wouldn’t say what rule Hooper is accused of breaking because they say the matter is being looked into.
Orange County Public Schools has a policy about what employees can and can’t do when they are at work.
One of the rules says that teachers can’t use their “official position” to try to get students to support or oppose a certain candidate, party, or issue.
Also this month, First Coast News said that a substitute teacher in Jacksonville was fired after posting a video of empty library shelves.
School officials in Duval County said the video was a “misrepresentation” and that the substitute teacher, Brian Covey, broke his job’s rules about social media and cellphones.