Opinion

Editorial: Now-former state education official a public disgrace

Jeremy Spencer is (make that was) assistant superintendent for virtual instruction in the Georgia Department of Education. As has just been made abundantly clear, especially for somebody whose field is supposed to be digital and Internet learning, Spencer is desperately in need of some instruction of his own in, among other things, discretion, common sense and common decency.

Spencer has (make that had) a Facebook page on which he identified his official position and posted, along with information about DOE events and issues, some rather more, well, personal perspectives about things like gays, race and immigration. One of his insights was that public schools in countries like Finland perform better than ours because "not everybody in the US public schools are [sic] WHITE!!" and "They have the cleanest schools in the world ... it isn't about color ... it's about the indoor air quality!! I have the research!"

In response to a political cartoon on Spencer's page about President Obama, a reader posted a lynching photo that Spencer (though he did not post the image or comment himself) left on the page for two months.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution education writer Maureen Downey, alerted by a reader to the content of the Facebook page, called both Spencer and DOE public affairs officer Matt Cardoza. Spencer had no response, and Cardoza said he wasn't even aware of the posts. (We're guessing he deserves the benefit of the doubt on that.)

Not much more than an hour after Downey raised the issue with the two DOE officials, Spencer's Facebook page vanished like thin smoke in a stiff wind. (Fortunately for the record, captures of the page contents are still available on the web.)

Jeremy Spencer, who in addition to being a former high school teacher is also the brother of a Georgia state lawmaker, is entitled to freedom of speech -- a freedom the Founders in their wisdom did not limit to inoffensive expression, which would be no freedom at all.

But freedom does not mean immunity from consequences, especially when personal expression is virtually (pun mostly unintended) inseparable from a six-figure gig as a top-tier public administrator.

Tuesday morning state Superintendent Richard Woods, saying he was "disheartened and disgusted" by what he had seen, issued a statement that "as of this morning, Mr. Spencer is no longer an employee of the Department of Education. My job, and the job of all employees at the Department of Education, is to look out for the educational well-being of all of Georgia's 1.7 million students, and more than 100,000 teachers and educators."

The superintendent is to be commended for decisiveness in what had to be an unpleasant but imperative decision. Meanwhile, message boards are no doubt already clogged with usual-suspect posts about Spencer's martyrdom at the hands of "political correctness." It's a non-excuse excuse as moronic as what got him fired in the first place.

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