CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — After investigating reports of disparaging comments written about students and their parents at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, the school announced Wednesday it has cut ties with three high school teachers.
Screenshots of the private chat messages were leaked on Twitter and retweeted by students multiple times.
Many of the comments included derogatory slurs, profanities, and startling comments including, “Man, I wish we could hit them” and “He is failing five classes, [expletive] idiot.”
After initially suspending faculty members, the school decided to cut ties with three of them.
“Late yesterday, Blackstone Valley Prep ended its relationship with three high school teachers after confirming the allegations were, in fact, true. They are no longer employed at Blackstone Valley Prep,” Executive Director Jeremy Chiappetta wrote in an open letter. “I want to be crystal clear, many of the comments written are deeply disturbing and offensive. As the founding school leader, executive director of the organization, and as a parent of three scholars in the program, I am deeply saddened and disappointed.”
When asked by Eyewitness News to clarify how the school ended its relationship with the teachers, External Public Affairs Director Jen LoPiccolo said the teachers tendered their resignations and the school accepted.
William Fischer, a spokesman for Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, confirmed that two of the three teachers who resigned were corps members for Teach for America, a national nonprofit that places recent college graduates in classrooms across the country for two years. In exchange, Teach for America corps members are paid an entry-level teacher’s salary and receive an alternative teacher’s certification. They are also eligible for a small federal education award to pay for future education costs or pay off student loans.
“It was abundantly clear to them that their future employment with the school was unrealistic,” Fischer said.
Erin Bradley, a spokeswoman for Teach for America, said the two active corps members have been suspended from the organization.
“It is a privilege to work with RI’s students and at TFA-RI, we base our work in a deep belief in and love for students,” Bradley wrote in an email. “The language and actions indicated in the communications is not reflective of Teach For America’s core values that we expect our teachers to uphold.”
The BVP Board of Directors also released a statement about the incident.
“The remarks made by teachers are absolutely inexcusable. Our primary concern is to work to repair and heal our relationships with students and families.”
During the last day of classes Tuesday, the school held a community meeting, during which students were able to “share their feelings and their concerns,” Chiapetta said.
He also said counselors were on hand to support students and staff.
The school said it’s planning to host two meetings with parents and guardians next week to discuss the issue.
“Parents put their trust in teachers and the school, and that trust has been violated,” the director said. “We have a great deal of work to do to build trust in our community. We are committed to doing just that.”