Tongue Slip Puts Teacher’s Job in Jeopardy


A twice-awarded teacher of the year is fighting for her job because of a slip of the tongue. At the end of what she has termed an “extremely bad day,” Texas math teacher Shirley Bunn snapped at a student who was badgering her as she tried to help him.

“I’m Mexican. I’m Mexican,” the student kept saying as he requested Spanish-language forms. She tried to tell him that those were available in the school office, but he kept interrupting to repeat, “I’m Mexican.”

“Go back to Mexico,” she eventually retorted.

Bunn was put on paid administrative leave after uttering those words on September 30, 2011. This past week an independent hearing examiner has recommended she change schools rather than be fired. She was shocked to hear herself at the time.

"It was almost instantaneous. I thought, 'God, I don't believe that came out of my mouth,'" said Bunn to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It was a very, very hard week, the end of six weeks. It was late in the day. It was a Friday. We were on the third day of the first curriculum assessment and I knew it wasn't going well. It was just an extremely bad day.”

Independent Hearing Examiner Jess Rickman III gave Bunn a pass, recommending that the school board not terminate her position. In a 23-page opinion he found that the context of the remark and its lack of applying to anything but the one teenager’s words in the heat of the moment meant the comment was not a statement about race or nationality and thus should not get her fired.

The school board will decide next month whether the 63-year-old teacher gets to keep her job.