Jennifer Hill has been a certified substitute teacher for the Chandler Unified School District since 2012, and on Friday she was notified that she had been fired. On Monday, after word of her firing made the news, Hill was told that she was relieved of duty for her “own protection.”
Hill required “protection” due to her objections to the tactics used by members of the #redfored “movement.” Hill has been particularly skeptical about the teachers’ strike this month.
“I have been posting my opposition in a respectful manner, and have been on the radio speaking about the facts on the budgeting process. In the week before the teacher walk-out/strike, the District began canceling substitute positions I had accepted and planned to work. I had substitute jobs scheduled for the day teachers were due to return to class and the next week, but without warning, the District cancelled all of them,” said Hill. “On Friday morning, I began to get harassing private messages from teachers and others in the District saying they ‘got me fired,’ and ‘hoped I would never sub anywhere else ever again.’ These bullies stated that they were in concert with the District’s administrators.’”
According to Hill, “At approximately 3:30 p.m., on Friday, I called the District’s substitute coordinator and explained who I was and what was happening with the threats and harassment. I asked her, “Are these people correct, have I been fired?” She confirmed I have been fired and transferred me to the director of human resources.”
In an interview on KFYI’s James T. Harris show, Hill said that the secretary told her “’we’ve have been waiting for your call. We figured you would call eventually.’”
“I asked why I have been fired and they said, ‘We heard about Facebook posts and we heard there was an incident at the junior high.’ I asked for more detail, as I have not been at the junior high in months and had been scheduled to sub there today. The secretary immediately ended the conversation by saying that the director will call later today to schedule a meeting,” reported Hill.
On Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7:48 a.m., Hill received a phone call from the administrative assistant for Director of Human Resources, Dr. Jeff Filloon, stating that he wanted to meet with her later in the day. Hill agreed to meet at 11:00 a.m.
“Upon arriving to the Chandler Unified School District offices, we were ushered in to Dr. Filloon’s office at which time he sat my husband and I down for a talk,” explained Hill. “He explained how part of his job is to oversee the substitute teachers and they have about 750 teachers, so it is a lot of subs. He says once in a while he gets complaints about a substitute and always likes to meet personally with them, when this happens. He went on to explain how he has gotten quite a few individuals, who remarked about a Facebook post I had put on my AZ Substitute Teachers Facebook page. I wrote: “I am subbing for a teacher tomorrow who has been out protesting and this is her first day back. She and I had it planned for a few weeks now and she texted me to make sure I would be there. I will be there but I will be speaking to the kids (8th gr) and picking their brains. Will be interesting…” He had a copy of the post, as did I, so we agreed it existed. He said he likes to let people come in when these complaints were made and members of the Andersen Junior High parent and teacher community were complaining about me. Dr. Meyer, the Andersen principal contacted him so he “stopped the job.” He said he didn’t want me to go into the classroom and ‘have more complaints, for my protection.’ When I asked what he was protecting me from, he would not specify. To me it was a vague implication that I may be in harm’s way.”
According to Hill, Filloon then advised her that he is recommending that she be “blocked” from ever acting as a substitute teacher at Andersen, “but was free to sub at any of the other schools in the District.”
Filloon claimed that while he does not have a Facebook account but deals with these kinds of things all of the time. Hill said Filloon “wanted me to know that his goal today is to let me know about the complaints, and how I am not allowed to sub at Andersen Jr. High, anymore.”
“I allowed him to finish before I spoke. When it was my turn to talk, I asked him why, if I have gotten so many complaints, hadn’t he or anyone at the district, called or contacted to let me know? Why did I have to find out through harassment on private Facebook messaging that I have “been fired and will never sub again? He seemed confused and asked, ‘You mean no one has contacted you?’ I let him know that I had to call Friday afternoon and when I did, his secretary told me not only had I been fired but, ‘we knew you would call eventually.’”
“I then showed him copies of the harassment and posts on the AEU Discussion HUB Facebook page where in a single thread; there were 191 comments about me. Comments like, ‘She needs to be banned from the district sub pool,’ and ‘Teachers United! Do you have an internal way of requesting not to have a particular sub? If so, spread the word! The Sea of Red will step in!’ or ‘Yay! Glad she (the teacher) didn’t have to have that awful sub. Now, she (the sub) is probably whining on her page…about how we have deprived her of her pay today. Boo-hoo,’” said Hill. “I asked him about all of the jobs I had that were cancelled in the past several weeks and future weeks, not just the middle school position. He hemmed and hawed but could not tell me why all of my jobs have cancelled, all over the District. He went on to reiterate that I have only been blocked from subbing at the junior high.”
“I then showed him the cut and pasted email from the principal of Andersen, to someone on this AEU site saying, “Thank you for reaching out to let me know about this substitute. I was made aware of this post last night and we made sure this sub was not on our campus today. Our HR department has also been made aware and will be working on it.” This email was forwarded to a man who doesn’t even have a child in the school or lives in Chandler. He is from Scottsdale.”
Hill said she “proceeded to describe to him the wonderful teacher at the junior high, I was supposed to sub for on Friday. I informed him that for the past few years, she and I have had a great relationship and now she has been identified. I feel so terrible for her and I told him that she now has to defend herself because he allowed mob rule to prevail. I pointed to the stack of emails I printed for him, showing the substitute jobs I have accepted and the district cancelled, for the past few weeks and this week. He just kept repeating, ‘you are only suspended from the junior high. I am doing it for your safety because there were so many complaints.’”
Hill told Filloon that in almost 6 years substituting in the District, she had never before received complaints. “Teachers always call for me to return to their classrooms,” said Hill. “I keep the room neat, get the lesson plans done and never have behavioral issues from the students.”
Filloon responded, “None of that is in question, Jennifer. Your performance and teaching is not even part of the conversation.”
To which she replied, “Your actions toward me indicate otherwise and I was told I was fired on Friday.”
Hill’s husband accompanied her to the meeting, and at this point in the conversation, he spoke up and asked, “Is there a specific violation of policy that caused this to happen? Did Jennifer violate anything in school policy?”
Filloon replied, “I’m not saying she did, no.”
Hill’s husband replied, “So what you did was terminate her job, if not on Friday, but all this next week, for something that was not a violation of any kind of rule?”
Filloon stammered, “But there’s also, and, and, and, what I’m going to do today is reactivate the system today, is that ok?”
Hill’s husband responded, “We are sympathetic to your position as an administrator. What we do not appreciate is that we have a highly politically charged situation right now that people are being fomented into anger and encouraged through social media, to gang up on my wife, call a certain school and create this feigned outrage which causes you to make an executive decision which obviously harms her future employment. Now you said you don’t have Facebook. You may not be very experienced at how these outrages are feigned, propagandized, and staged. Nobody gave a damn what she was posting until a few people got upset and spread it through the AEU Hub. Then everyone ganged up on her because she doesn’t happen to be a Red For Ed supporter. She has been an outspoken Red For Ed tactics criticizer. She’s been in the media; we all know that. So when you have dozens of calls coming into a school, you cannot take the number of calls and say this validates the issue, because it doesn’t. You have to look at the document, what is in text and say on principle, was a rule violated, it wasn’t. You have to go on the rules, the principle. Just because a bunch of idiots want to gang up on my wife doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to cause her harm to her income. Does that make sense?”
Filloon nodded and replied slowly, “Hmmmmm, you know we also have other opportunities at the other schools, I mean…”
Hill interrupted, “Oh, trust me, I have logged in to the sub system and there is nothing available, at least for me.”
Hill’s husband then passionately defended his wife, “Here’s what happens sir, now that this has happened you are malleable as an administrator. They are going to come after her again and you are going to get calls if she decides to take jobs at Chandler High or any of the other schools she loves teaching. The minute they find out she has a job there, and trust me they will, you are going to see calls there. She now has a target on her back and I would ask you to take into consideration that this is a charged situation and next time you hear complaints about my wife at a school, don’t just take them out of hand or as being valid. Maybe push back a little bit. You say you protect subs sometimes, why don’t you protect her? Maybe give her the benefit of the doubt. Look at her history, her resume, bring her in and talk to her. Fine cancel the job on Friday and make a Monday morning meeting like we have done here, but don’t cancel the jobs for the rest of the week.”
“What I am trying to advocate for here,” continued Hill’s husband, “is to be careful in this politically charged environment, which decisions you make, because they are going to be publicized, not by us, but all these idiots who are harassing my wife. The minute they find out you are so easily influenced to make rash decision, they will double down next time. I guarantee it, sir.”
“I will admit this is politically charged right now,” Filloon responded to the Hills.
Politically charged is an understatement. The #redfored campaign is part of a national effort to elect progressives in November. Fear and intimidation is part of that campaign and it is likely that there are far more classroom teacher victims of it than we know.
Rep. Kelly Townsend stated, “It has become quite apparent that there is a system in place that prevents anyone from speaking out against the status quo in Arizona schools. I get emails daily from people wanting me to know what is going on, but begging me not to reveal their name for fear of retaliation. I’d like to say I was surprised at this story, but now having witnessed and experience for myself the tactics used, I can only hope that this method is exposed and prevented in the future. It reminds me of something directly out of the movie where Union thugs, or even Mafia types control what goes on and you don’t dare cross them, or else. I am struck and saddened by the notion that she should be reassigned somewhere else for “her own protection.” Because she spoke out against the walkout? The good news is, people are waking up to this problem and are pushing back, finally. Good for Ms. Hill.”
“Moving forward will be a task I would be willing to take,” says Hill, “should the District follow through and reinstate me as a substitute. My heart cries for these children and they deserve safe classrooms without soap boxes.”