MUNCIE, Ind. — The Muncie Community School Board on Tuesday evening terminated the employment of a Central High School teacher whose classroom assignment last fall sparked controversy and student protests.
The personnel report at Tuesday night's board meeting included the termination of Katey O’Connor as a language arts teacher at Central. Board members approved the report — which also listed various administrative and school staff hirings, resignations and retirements — as part of an overall vote on the consent agenda without any specific discussion of O'Connor.
The controversy began in November after students in O'Connor's language arts class who had read the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" created posters about issues important to them, which included topics such as police brutality, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
After the posters were displayed in the hallway outside the classroom, heated words – described alternately as an argument or “disruptive discussion” – were exchanged between a student and a school resource officer. The posters were taken back into the classroom.
In response to the posters being moved, students held a protest inside the school the following Monday, and later that month had a protest march to Muncie City Hall after school.
While the incident was under investigation by a law firm retained by the school district, O'Connor in January said she had submitted her resignation effective at the end of the school year, but it had not been voted upon by the school board at that point.
O'Connor told The Star Press later in January that she had been placed on a paid suspension after she posted a TikTok video suggesting that her frustrations with the controversy since last fall had led her to consider "burning down buildings."
O'Connor later described those statements as satirical.
Muncie Schools spokesman Andy Klotz said at the time of O'Connor's suspension that MCS officials were aware of the video, but couldn't comment further since the issue was a personnel matter.
Klotz said after Tuesday's meeting that O'Connor had remained on suspension from teaching since January.
A public report by law firm Church Church Hittle + Antrim released in February placed blame for the events on O'Connor, the lack of classroom lesson plan procedures, a particular school resource officer — who remained outside the classroom for 40 minutes “discussing” the assignment in front of a crowd of teachers and students — and another employee who possibly added to tensions by proclaiming “All Lives Matter” to students and staff looking at a student-created Black Lives Matter poster.
School officials responded to the report by citing steps the district had already taken — including new school resource officers, regular listening sessions with students facilitated by Ball State University Peace and Conflict Studies and a new mental health resource guide — and changes that were then still to come, including a written policy about displaying student work, addition of a mental health professional at Central, ongoing professional development for teachers and a review of expectations for school resource officers.
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This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Central teacher whose class sparked protest fired by MCS School Board