Democracy Dies in Darkness

Morning Mix

Mich. teachers joked about students and killing co-workers. First came outrage, then resignations.

February 15, 2017 at 7:03 AM

Bangor Public Schools. (Google Maps)

In January, gathered at the Bangor Tavern Bar and Grill in Michigan, several teachers and a secretary employed by the Bangor public school system decided to play a game. The game has been played in many bars many times before, normally in the context of celebrities or popular television characters. But the faculty chose to substitute their co-workers for Chris Pratt and Khal Drogo, discussing which of their colleagues they would kill, marry or sleep with (although they used a cruder verb than that). They also made fun of their pupils in ways that one parent would later describe as "heartbreaking."

Unknown to the staff members and teachers, a nearby patron was recording the game. A six-minute video found its way to YouTube, and spread to the computer screens of Bangor parents and beyond.

An attorney for the school district, Robert Huber, told Michigan Live that the teachers did not discuss having sex with students, contrary to some reports. "The false impression that was created is that teachers were talking about whether they would marry, 'f' or kill students," Huber said. "There's no truth to that at all."

Rather, the video showed three school employees naming co-workers to kill or sleep with, Huber said. The administration had known about the video for several weeks, he said; the footage showed seven Bangor employees at the bar, including four other teachers who were present but did not participate. The administrative secretary was the only participant who mentioned students, according to Huber.

On Feb. 13, during a school board meeting, outrage over the contents came to a head. Parents expressed concern that the school had known about the video and asked board members to explain what they knew.

"It's disturbing to know that these are our educators," said Jennifer Prentice, a parent in the school district, to western Michigan's Fox 17. "They are in charge of protecting our children, keeping our children safe, and the fact that they just blew that out of the water shows their character and shows that maybe they're not right for this job."

"It was heartbreaking," Amanda Reprogal, who said her 15-year-old son was mentioned in the video, also told Fox 17. "My heart sank, and I was disgusted."

The only thing that wound up killed, in the end, were jobs. A few of the school employees — as of Tuesday, two teachers — have handed in resignation papers. The school secretary also resigned Monday.

One school staffer, who felt the video contained threats, filed a complaint with Bangor police. Bangor's police chief, Tommy Simpson, reviewed the footage, according to WZZM 13. The police chief did not follow up with charges but noted the school was conducting an internal assessment. Fox 17 reported that the four teachers said to have witnessed the game were given verbal reprimands.

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Ben Guarino is a reporter for The Washington Post’s Science section. Before joining The Post in 2016, he worked as a freelance science journalist, an associate editor at the Dodo and a medical reporter at the McMahon Group. He also has a background in bioengineering.

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