D209 Suspends Teacher Who Posted Anti-DACA Comments on Facebook

Thursday, October 12, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 10/14/17

A Proviso Math and Science Academy math teacher who commented on Facebook that undocumented immigrants who have come to the U.S. as children should “go back” has been suspended without pay.

The Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board voted unanimously to authorize the suspension of at a regular meeting on Oct. 10. Board President Theresa Kelly abstained while board member Della Patterson, who had recently been hospitalized due to emergency health issues, was absent.

“I believe that kids should have the right to be in a safe, secure environment where they have every opportunity to do their best,” Kelly said during an interview on Thursday. “I also believe all children should be safe and that all employees should have due process and be treated fairly under the law.”

In a followup interview, Kelly clarified that she was not referring to her specific vote or the board’s decision regarding Pellegrini, adding that she cannot address matters of personnel.

On Saturday, school board secretary Claudia Medina said that the board and district “followed complete due process” while deciding how to address the issue with Pellegrini.

“We were sensitive and cognizant of the strife that [Pellegrini’s] actions caused students and parents in the community, many of whom came forward to complain to us. This issue was addressed based upon substantial disruption to the education environment,” Medina said. “It wasn’t based on the Facebook post.

“The district takes step to make sure that no one’s civil rights are violated in personnel matters. We are completely sensitive to all of our parents, students and teachers,” she said. “As a district, we engage in transparency and accountability, following due process at all times.”

During an interview on Sept. 12, the teacher, Dan Pellegrini, confirmed that he had posted the comments before apologizing and reversing his initial position.

The uproar over Pellegrini’s comments was sparked on Sept. 8, when Lynette Aguirre, who graduated from PMSA in 2010, posted to Facebook a screenshot of a letter addressed to D209 administrators, including Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez, signed by the Class of 2010.

“Attached is a snipet [sic] of current teacher Mr. Dan Pellegrini expressing his thoughts on the current removal of DACA,” the letter states, referencing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama and recently rescinded by President Donald Trump.

The program offers a two-year period of relief from deportation that can be renewed, in addition to the opportunity to obtain a work permit, to people who immigrated to the United States illegally as minors. DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers.” As of Oct. 5, the program cannot be renewed.

Aguirre also posted to Facebook a screenshot of the original comment that was posted on Facebook by Pellegrini and written in response to another comment.

“Pells I normally agree with you but a lot of pmsa kids are dreamers,” wrote a Facebook user whose account name is blacked out. “I can’t stand to watch them not have a future here. They didn’t have a voice in their parents decision to bring them [sic].”

“That’s too bad,” Pellegrini allegedly writes in response. “They should go back.”

Pellegrini’s comments were written around the same time that the school district sent out a letter to families expressing the district’s support of DACA students who may attend district schools, and providing information about the program.

Last month, a PMSA student started a change.org petition that urges the school board not to fire Pellegrini. Since it’s creation, the petition has garnered over 400 supporters.

District 209 officials declined to disclose how long Pellegrini will be suspended since district policy doesn’t allow them to discuss personnel matters. VFP

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8 thoughts on “D209 Suspends Teacher Who Posted Anti-DACA Comments on Facebook

  1. I am glad that the board of education members of District #209 suspended the PMSA teacher for posting an anti-DACA comment. Good job board members on the decision! Let this be a lesson to “keep your comments to yourself.”

  2. The Concerned Proviso Township Resident,

    First, I don’t know Pellegrini.

    Second, why should this be a lesson for anyone to “keep your comments to yourself?” Okay, this might be a good lesson on why one should “think before speaking,” but how can you applaud the school board for such a foolish decision. Isn’t this still the United States of AMERICA where free speech is a constitutionally protected right? Doesn’t everyone have the right to free speech, or it is only for those whose opinions are popular, or is it only for people with whom we agree? Regardless of whether you or I agree with Pellegrini or not, what has he said that isn’t constitutionally protected?

    Third, I’m not a lawyer, nor a constitutional lawyer, nor do I dedicate even five minutes per day to thoughts concerning the constitutionality of anything, but I did finish 8th grade. I still remember enough of studying this nation’s Constitution in Junior High School to know that Pellegrini probably has no shortage of lawyers lining up to help him sue our school district. We seem to have a school board which is more concerned about keeping up appearances than leading a beleaguered school district with more than its fair share of lots of other real problems. Now, if the board doesn’t back-peddle quickly, they’re going to have one more HUGE problem for sure! How much could a potential settlement cost District 209? You wait and see. Whether the settlement for such a lawsuit is ever disclosed or not, THERE WILL BE A SETTLEMENT. Do you think a single school board member who votes to violate Pelligrini’s constitutionally protected rights will ever step forward to volunteer a even one dollar to pay for that settlement. Oh yeah, “Good job board members on your decision!”

    Finally, your opinion and my opinion of Pellegrini’s opinion on DACA is irrelevant, but your opinion on the school board’s decision is shortsighted at best. Why are people, even teachers, not allowed to voice their personal opinions? We won’t censor the most vile, profane, and base literature in our school library, but an educator isn’t permitted to express a personal socio-political opinion? What’s next; are we going to fire teachers for having voted for the wrong Presidential candidate? If Pellegrini is sorry because he wishes he could take back his statement due to the unexpected backlash, or because he believes he chose a foolish opportunity to exercise his constitutionally protected right to free speech, or because he had a sincere or insincere change of heart, then good for him. However, Pellegrini should NEVER have to apologize for exercising his constitutionally protected right to free speech! But I do have a feeling that the Board will be apologizing.

      1. He did nothing wrong, just exercised his freedom of speech. The parents put their children in this position. Why is it ok for people to violate our borders but not ok for the consequences to be enforced?

    1. I understand your opinion. But, the PMSA teacher need to be faced with a serious consequence for posting an anti-DACA comment on Facebook. I also found out that his students that are Latinos are stating that they are intimidated by him. No student should ever have to be afraid in school.

      1. Are they also intimidated by statues? We should suspend them as well right? Columbus also needs to go! The best teachers I had I was initimitated by. A bunch of snow flakes.

  3. Its freedom of speech, we aretalking about a tenured teacher that has helped many dreamers in the US get jobs and excel.

  4. This is a very troubling path for this board to take.

    Now, I do not agree with what the teacher posted, but he does have a right to do so without a consequence of this magnitude. It really seems like the Superintendent Rodriguez and Medina took his jab personal and used this situation as a way to enact revenge. Revenge tactics over a Facebook comment that was already addressed and apologized for really has no place in District 209. If you read the article closely, the language implies that there was a deal struck in advance and the suspension was used as a pile on.

    This is not governing progressively or smart. This is governing through fear of consequences and repercussions.

    To the teacher who posted, Pellegrini, to the Superintendent Rodriguez to the board member Medina. You are better than this. Be better

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