Panama City teacher faces backlash over Facebook post amid nationwide protests

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 9:08 PM EDT
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June 10, 2020

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -- As protests over racism take hold of the country, one Tyndall Elementary School teacher is now facing criticism for a recent social media post.

“Another employee had made me aware of it and so we jumped on it right away,” said Bay District Schools executive director of human resource, Shirley Baker.

Nicole Bynum Waller wrote on Facebook: “bet they don’t burn down the food stamp office.”

“When we have an overwhelming majority of our students who are on free and reduced lunch that statement, again, implicitly implies that there’s a lack of respect,” said the executive director of the LEAD Coalition of Bay County, Janice Lucas.

District officials said Waller has no prior record of similar behavior. In accordance with the district’s progressive discipline approach, she will be required to complete diversity training but can return to the classroom this year.

“We had a very frank discussion and, like I said, she has been cooperative and regretful every step of the way,” said Baker.

Tony Bostick with the Northwest Florida Minority Business Chamber of Commerce claims it’s just one of several similar instances in the school district’s history. “But this is a systemic problem with Bay District Schools that when something happens they tend to kick the can down the road,” said Bostick.

Although Bostick would like to see Waller fired, Lucas has other ideas. “I think there’s an opportunity here for there to be a structured monitoring,” she said.

While many agree the situation is unfortunate, district leaders say it presents an opportunity for growth. “And I would say that our district is no different than the country. We’ve got a ways to go but we’re making progress,” said Baker.

We did reach out to Waller for comment but did not hear back. Baker said parents have the right to request class changes if they are uncomfortable with their children in Waller's classroom.