Florida teacher plans to appeal his alleged firing over mass shooting obituary assignment
Dr. Phillips, Fla. - A psychology teacher at a Central Florida High School said he was fired over a lesson plan that asked students to write a reflection paper about how they'd react to a school shooting and to write their own obituary as if it was their "last day."
He said he now plans to appeal his termination.
Jeffrey Keene told FOX 35 that he was attempting to connect the lesson to a planned assailant drill that was reportedly being planned at Dr. Phillips High School.
"If they died 24 hours from now, what would they do differently, than they did yesterday? And that’s to show them what’s important in the world. It wasn’t to say, you’re gonna die and let's stretch you out," he told FOX 35 in an interview late Wednesday.
The lesson told students there was an active shooter on campus and asked them to write a reflection paper on "your perception" as if it were happening, to write their own obituary, and to write their thoughts as to why the U.S. is having so many mass shootings, ideas on how to decrease the number of mass shootings, and how mass shootings have impacted them.
Keene told FOX 35 that he does not regret the lesson and would do it again. "Absolutely," he said.
In a recorded voice message to parents, Dr. Phillips High School Principal Jackie Ramsey described it as an "inappropriate assignment about school violence."
A spokesperson for Orange County Public Schools said in an email the district was unable to discuss employee matters. The district said the teacher was hired in January and is still in their probationary period, and confirmed that they had been terminated.
Keene told FOX 35 that he put a disclaimer at the bottom of the assignment.
One student, Keene said, was upset by the lesson and asked to speak to a counselor. After that, a supervisor came into Keene's second class.
"I said, ‘Who knows what you do in the restroom if there’s an active shooter?’ and no one knew. So I started to explain the process, and she shut me down," he said.
What do parents think about the lesson?
FOX 35 asked a few people what they thought about the lesson and the teacher's termination. Reactions were mixed.
Daniel Mercato, a student, said he felt the context of the assignment was "a little outrageous."
"There’s nothing wrong with the safety, but I feel the context is a little outrageous," he said.
Craig, a grandparent, said he thought it was a good move.
"I think that would make them grow up quicker if they think about it. So I think it’s a good move. He shouldn’t be fired," he said.
Rebecca, a parent, said she thought the assignment was "a little bleak." "With that age group, I don't know if that's appropriate."