FORT LAUDERDALE — A Broward high school teacher has been fired, after being accused of having inappropriate discussions and interactions with students, including allegedly showing them a phallic-shaped gum wrapper.
Joanna Herring, 56, was a language arts teacher at McArthur High in Hollywood until the School Board fired her earlier this month. She is appealing the action to the Division of Administrative Hearings to try to get her job back, according to a petition filed Friday.
A district complaint lists a long list of allegations from the 2021-22 school year, including yelling at her students, making racially insensitive remarks, showing up late for class regularly, failing to post student grades in a timely manner and missing parent-teacher conferences.
“Additionally, students reported that Herring showed the class a gum wrapper shaped in the form of a penis that she said had been gifted to her by a student from a previous class who left it on her desk,” the district complaint says.
One student gave a statement to district investigators that said, “There was an incident where she showed us a male private part made out of a gum wrapper, saying it was a gift from one of her freshmen and that she didn’t want to throw it out because it was ‘so generous,’” the complaint states.
One student voiced discomfort with how she discussed Black people.
“When the school year first started she kept speaking on black people. How her family is racist and when they came down to Miami/Broward they told her there was ‘too much black people,’” a student told investigators.
Students said that one day in January, she was upset with a student for interrupting a conversation she was having with another student. She “put herself in a corner of the classroom with her back to the class, stating repeatedly, ‘Tell me when she’s done, tell me when she’s done,’” according to the complaint.
“Once the student stated she was done, Herring returned to the front of the classroom,” the complaint says.
“Herring has continuously failed to use professional judgment and maintain professionalism with students, staff and stakeholders,” the district’s complaint said.
Herring could not be reached for comment. She is being represented by the Broward Teachers Union. Neither president Anna Fusco nor her lawyer, Robert McKee, could be reached for comment. In a petition filed Friday with the Division of Administrative Hearings, Herring denied the allegations.
“No cause exists for the termination of Respondent’s employment by the Broward County School Board,” the petition states.
District records show she previously received a three-day suspension in 2019 for excessive absenteeism, failure to attend faculty and department meetings and failure to adhere to emergency Code Red lockdown procedures.
Herring has worked as a teacher in the district since 2007. Her salary this year was $52,069.