Melissa Hussain Deserves to Keep Her Teaching Job February 17, 2010

Melissa Hussain Deserves to Keep Her Teaching Job

Because of my own situation last summer involving a religious nut going after my public school teaching job, a lot of people have sent me the story of Melissa Hussain, the North Carolina 8th grade teacher whose job is in jeopardy because of how she handled her über-religious students. She’s currently suspended with pay. And there’s very little information on her story other than a one-sided article against her by T. Keung Hui.

*Very* one-sided.

Case in point:

Hussain wrote on the social-networking site that it was a “hate crime” that students anonymously left a Bible on her desk, and she told how she “was able to shame her kids” over the incident.

Here’s the actual context of the “shame her kids” line:

That sounds like a teacher I *want* my kids to have. Not some evil teacher out to attack religious kids.

Here’s the story in a nutshell: religious students were harassing her and disrupting her classroom. They put the aforementioned Bible on her desk in December along with a card reading “Merry Christmas” (emphasis theirs). They put a postcard of Jesus on her desk. They called her a “Jesus hater.” They would sing “Jesus loves me” (presumably during class). They read the Bible instead of doing class work.

I know little about the situation other than what I’ve read in Hui’s article.

But here’s my theory (as a relatively young teacher who has dealt with similar kids).

Some kids found out about her religious beliefs (I don’t know what she is, but I think I can safely say non-Christian) and they told their friends.

The kids wanted to bait her, so they began pushing her buttons by bringing up religion in class whenever they possibly could. It wasn’t just a waste of class time, it was really annoying, and it threw Hussain off kilter. Instead of laughing it off or just waiting till she got back into the office to complain, she reacted immediately… which is precisely what the kids wanted.

She threw the postcard in the trash. When the students were reading the Bible instead of doing class work, she took away the distraction (which the kids knew damn well she would do, which is why they were reading it in the first place). She may have sent students to the office during the evolution lessons, but I doubt it was *only* because they asked about the role of God in creation. It’s probably because they wouldn’t let up about it, they wanted to argue about religion instead of learning the basic facts of evolution, and when she couldn’t continue teaching the class without disruption, she told the kids in question to get out of the classroom and go to the office.

Then, she complained to friends about the situations… which is understandable. But she did it on a Facebook page that didn’t have proper privacy filters set. That was a mistake on her part. The kids could find her wall postings, take screenshots, etc. So those comments were sent around the school, too.

Though if you read the Facebook comments (PDF), they don’t show any anti-student maliciousness on her part. If anything, they just show a teacher who is shocked that kids would be so damn mean. She wants them to be aware of the hurt they’re causing (good luck with that). But she posted them on a public Facebook page and others have taken them out of context.

Even worse, they’re using her friends’ comments against her. That’s just ridiculous. That’s like criticizing me for something a random commenter on this site says. Just because someone posts something on your site (or Facebook wall) doesn’t mean you automatically approve of it.

It’s all a big positive feedback loop that’s not going in Hussain’s favor.

And when you see the awful article about her, it’s no wonder people are having a hard time sympathizing with her.

Certainly, the parents are supporting their kids’ version of the story. That’s a problem, too. Most teenagers I know either absolutely love or totally hate every teacher they have. There’s not a lot of in-between. And when they “hate” a teacher, they think the teacher is out to get them at all costs, as if teachers care about petty revenge against irritating students. No doubt some religious students would see a non-Christian teacher as someone who’s “totally out to get” them.

I have yet to see any parent or administrator saying that these kids were being the little arrogant jerks they were and that the kids deserved punishment instead of the teacher.

On a side note, I think more people would sympathize with Hussain if they discovered she was a Muslim or a Jew. In those cases, it’s understandable why she’d be upset at kids trying to push Christianity on her. But because her religion is unstated, that means she could be an atheist and she therefore deserves all the scorn!

A local education association is making the mistake of inching toward the side of the students:

… Jennifer Lanane, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said she wasn’t aware of the details of the Hussain case, but said that teachers need to be careful about information they put online.

“We are public figures,” Lanane said. “We are held to a higher standard.”

Pathetic. Hussain’s mistake pales in comparison to what these ignorant kids were doing to her. Hussain needs the support of the administration and teachers’ groups, not their derision. With friends like those, who needs enemies?

No doubt Hussain made a mistake by not using better privacy filters on Facebook. But that’s not the real issue here. The problem is that these students were harassing the teacher and they’re being let off the hook.

The parents aren’t helping, either:

… Annette Balint, whose daughter is in Hussain’s class, said the students have the right to wear those shirts and sing “Jesus Loves Me,” a long-time Sunday School staple. She said the students were reading the Bible during free time in class.

“She doesn’t have to be a professing Christian to be in the classroom,” Balint said. “But she can’t go the other way and not allow God to be mentioned.”

Hussain’s comments included one where she complained that she “hates” parents who complain about their child’s first B in middle school. She said her husband suggested she start a blog “based on ridiculous students and their parents.”

Balint said it was clear to the class that Hussain was talking about her daughter. “I feel violated that she would say those things,” she said.

Balint is the quintessential annoying parent: her daughter doesn’t get the best grade and she takes it out on the teacher.

You know, when Balint lets me walk into her place of work wearing a “god is dead” shirt while I pester her nonstop about how god doesn’t exist and leave a copy of The God Delusion on her desk — all while she’s trying to help me out — then I’ll take her whining more seriously. Hell, for all we know, Balint liked that her daughter “spread the Jesus” in the classroom.

Hussain deserves to get her job back. Maybe she also deserves a reprimand for not using some common sense when it comes to the social networking site, but that’s about it.

Meanwhile, the kids who are causing all this trouble need to be punished. Maybe writing an apology to Hussain and an essay on how evolution works would do the trick.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Heidi

    Melissa Hussain also deserves an apology from those people. Can you imagine the uproar if these had been students preaching Islam at a Christian teacher?

  • LKL

    sometimes contacting the admin in *support* of a beleaguered teacher can help.
    The Wake County Public School System Central Office mailing address is:

    3600 Wake Forest Road
    P.O. Box 28041
    Raleigh, NC 27611-8041

    Phone: (919) 850-1600
    Fax: (919) 850-1819

    Be polite and logical, folks. The comment area on the article has been turned off ‘due to abuse,’ so we know that these people are going to just plug their ears at the slightest hint of what they consider to be harassment. Let’s be supportive of the teacher rather than annoyed at the nasty kids.

  • Heidi

    I found her work e-mail address on the school’s website and sent her a link here. I thought she could use the support.

  • It’s times likes these when the teacher needs to be a part of a union.

    It’s sad – I had considered moving to North Carolina because I heard how lovely it is down there for teachers.

    If that only extends to Christian teachers though, then no thanks.

  • Miko

    Setting proper privacy settings on Facebook is harder than it should be, partly because Facebook likes to keep changing things up and isn’t always clear about how new things affect your old privacy settings. While I’d advise being diligent with your privacy settings there, I’d also advise not putting anything there that you don’t want the whole world to see.

  • I wrote to the principal and told him how disappointed I was there wasn’t peer support for Melissa. I’m happy her story is getting around. Good luck to her.

    I also hope they take up your idea to have the kids write an evolution paper.

  • Jacob Duckett

    It’s things like this that deserve more attention than they’re going to get. Even if it turns out like we are all hoping that it does, without the right amount of publicity it helps nothing in the end. We need to show people that even tho Atheists are made out to be vicious, god-hating, aggressive people, 9 times out of 10 it’s us who are on the defensive, fighting to make sure our most basic rights are respected!

  • Not only should she have her job, but does she even deserve a reprimand?

  • Nerdista

    I’m so disappointed in this school district. If she were a christian being harassed by atheists, Bill O’Reilly would freak out and Glenn Beck would have his chalk board out by now. I’m really concerned for her. I wrote to the district and told them they should reinstate her ASAP. I hope she keeps her job or gets a hefty settlement.

  • While the privacy settings thing is an issue, I’d rather stick to the private messaging function.

    As far as Melissa is concerned, it doesn’t matter what religion she is as harassment is still harassment with what the kids did. Harassment like this shouldn’t go unpunished, but I think it should extend to the parents and not just be focused on the kids.

    Kids learn this sort of despicable behavior from their parents first and foremost. Don’t just fix the problem with a band-aid and reprimand the kids, create the solution and inform the parents that these actions are deplorable.

  • mb

    Leaving aside the evangelical jerkwad students, it seems pretty stupid to me to allow a ‘holy’ book to offend you. She may have thought she ‘shamed’ them, but I doubt they really felt any shame. ‘Serious’ christians usually take rejection as just one more sign that they are right. It also feeds their persecution complex. Better to ignore them. Seems like this teacher is too bound up in her own religion to deal with the situation rationally. To be offended by words on paper without even reading them seems especially silly. So they put a bible on her desk? So what? Toss it in the trash and move on. Give them a pop quiz and take points off for neatness and grammar. Work their asses off. She’s in a position of power as a teacher, but she chose to be offended — a position of weakness.

  • Donald Eric Kesler

    To whom it may concern,

    I recall when I was in High School; disruptive students placed a swastika on the chalk board of a Jewish teacher’s class room. The students were disciplined swiftly.

    Now, I will certainly concede that a Bible on the desk is not the same thing as a swastika on the chalk board; however, the difference is in only in the degree of harassment. Both incidents were done with the clear intent to make the teacher feel unwelcomed. Consider this; how would this administration respond if Christian literature had been left anonymously for a Islamic, Jewish or Wiccan teacher?

    Some will claim that these children were only wishing to reach out to a non-believer like a good Christian. That is just so much nonsense. If this was their goal, they could have politely asked the teacher to attend a church service.

    Melissa Hussain should be reinstated immediately. The administration should work with her to help her deal with these disruptive students. The administration should strive to teach their students that the United States of America is a nation founded upon the notion that everyone is free to follow whatever belief their conscience dictates. Unlike in Iran, there is not a single state supported religion.

    Regards and Best Wishes,

    Donald Eric Kesler

    Athens, Georgia

  • Ryan

    mb, would you say the same thing if she was black and a student put a KKK pamphlet on her desk? That is really no different than what the students did to her. They knowingly put something on her desk that would offend her beliefs.

  • Ross

    I sent a letter to the principal. I urge everyone else to do the same. You can find more information about the school here.

  • Robert

    Children are not mature responsible adults, children are children. Teacher lost control of the class, teacher is the adult, the trained professional, it is the teacher’s fault. PS religion has absolutely nothing to do with it, unless of course there were parents in the background goading it on simply because of the teachers name (unfourtunately very likely). Still the trained professional lost control.

  • fkdsjfkdjkljlk

    Melissa Hussain also deserves an apology from the students.

    “”Most teenagers I know either absolutely love or totally hate every teacher they have. There’s not a lot of in-between. And when they “hate” a teacher, they think the teacher is out to get them at all costs, as if teachers care about petty revenge against irritating students.””

    You have a VERY small sample size (or are an outlier).

    I think what the students did is symptomatic of a larger problem of treating teenagers as immature kids with regards to their education. By the time you reach the age of 16-18 you have nearly the same brain development that a 24-25 year old person has (this is when the brain matures IIRC).
    Yet a college student is allowed not to take a class if they don’t want to. High schoolers deserve the same choice.

    If the students didn’t like the teacher they should have been given the option to leave.

  • ChrisZ

    All Christians should be nuked.

    *This comment serves as evidence that Hemant wants to commit genocide against Christians.

  • Christophe Thill

    Total support for Melissa Hussain. She looks like a great teachers. Her pupils… well, they’re kids. But their parents actually seem to be stupid bigoted rednecks. I understand they wish to sabotage good education whenever they see it.

  • British Cat

    It’s not so much the act of putting a bible on someone’s desk….it’s the INTENT behind it, which–if you take it in context with all the rumors and other nastiness–is clearly to cause trouble.

  • Heidi

    PS religion has absolutely nothing to do with it,

    Are you joking? Do you think she would be on suspension in any other case of students harassing their teacher? If they’d put a Koran on a non-Muslim teacher’s desk, called her “Allah hater,” and started chanting “Allahu Akbar,” Homeland Security would’ve shown up.

  • Ada

    “…it seems pretty stupid to me to allow a ‘holy’ book to offend you.”

    If she walked into the room and found a Bible on her desk, that was the first and only event, with no history behind it, and she flew off the handle about it, then sure, I’d agree with you. Not sure why you want to cherry-pick one single event out of all the things stated though, ignoring the card that was presented along with the Bible and any implications it has.

  • Trace

    “That’s like criticizing me for something a random commenter on this site says.”

    well…as far as I’m concerned my stoopid comments are all your fault.

  • Ron in Houston

    Hey, being ever the optimist I see a bright side –

    While the bureaucrats at the district are all tied up in knots she’s getting a paid vacation.

  • DShell

    It is about religion. I feel the parents are vicariously trying to punish this teacher for not believing the way they believe. This is pathetic. Save your self-righteous Christian dogma for Sunday.

  • She was teaching an eighth grade class. Eighth graders are cruel (and so are parents of eighth graders). That doesn’t mean she can go on her public Facebook page and say he hates parents, or that a 13/14 year old giving her a bible is a hate crime.

    In my opinion it’s the responsibility of the teacher to take the high road, no matter what the students do. Send them to the office? Yes. Call their parents? Sure. Say nasty things about people on your Facebook? You’re pretty much asking to get canned.

  • qwertyuiop

    Leaving aside the evangelical jerkwad students, it seems pretty stupid to me to allow a ‘holy’ book to offend you.

    Maybe so, but it was the intent behind it – clearly to push her buttons. I bet if it was atheist students harassing a Christian, Jewish, Muslim teacher and putting a copy of The God Delusion on her desk you’d see a whole different outcome. I bet these kids would be arrested by homeland security or something. You could use any combination of religions in this example.

    She may have thought she ’shamed’ them, but I doubt they really felt any shame. ‘Serious’ christians usually take rejection as just one more sign that they are right. It also feeds their persecution complex. Better to ignore them.

    That’s correct. But she couldn’t ignore them. If you’ve ever been in a classroom, you know how kids behave. Plus, they have the religion card in their hands which increases her problems exponentially.

    Seems like this teacher is too bound up in her own religion to deal with the situation rationally.

    Sigh… when are people going to realize that calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color?

    To be offended by words on paper without even reading them seems especially silly. So they put a bible on her desk? So what? Toss it in the trash and move on.

    She did that, or she threw out the postcard anyway. How did it work for her, hmm?

    Give them a pop quiz and take points off for neatness and grammar. Work their asses off. She’s in a position of power as a teacher, but she chose to be offended — a position of weakness.

    and then the students go over her head and play the religion card and bam, she’s still fired.

  • MG

    If I was Melissa, I would have placed the Bible that was placed on her desk in the classroom’s lost and found. Most teachers place lost books and things on a cabinet by the door.

  • “Hussain needs the support of the administration and teachers’ groups, not their derision.”

    Unless she’s extraordinarily lucky, she will suffer the fate of so many other teachers: no support, not from her principal, or the school administrators, or the school board.

    Those lightweights will wring their hands and finally decide to come down on the teacher, because coming down on the perpetrators will cause parents to whine.

  • polomint38

    Look on the bright side, if she loses her job, it is a possible post for Hemant if he doesn’t get asked back for next year at current assignment.

  • Robin

    Sounds like she was teaching on borrowed time anyway. The scores that her students were apparently going to recieve on the science content knowledge of the standardized tests were clearly going to be “does not meet standard.” Through no fault of her own.

  • Xnilo

    If the kids acted inappropriately and harassed her they are definitely wrong. Unfortunnately, the obvious mistake is Melissa went public with the challenges she was facing with her students. It appears she took her frustration out on them through Facebook. She used a poor choice of words:

    “I was able to shame the kids…”

    Bad choice of words. She should have phrased it differently, e.g., “I was able to have a heart-to-heart discussion with the kids on religion and my beliefs and the rights of everyone to believe a they choose.”

    Instead of taking steps to gain control over the situation in her classroom through th proper channels she erred and publicly humiliated the children. Though it may be true they were humiliating her she is the adult and should have acted more responsibly and maturely.

  • Philbert

    This just in, people use colorful language when venting on Facebook. The “shaming” probably just meant having a slightly stern talk with the class. She should be judged on what she did, not on offhand comments on Facebook.

  • Concerned Wake County Citizen

    This is a very nice website, and I am glad she is getting some support. I am very confident that she will get her job back. The facts of this case will make Wake County look like complete idiots. Fox put this on their website, but will not put it on their TV shows, because they seriously risk getting burned. The first and worst assumtion is that she is Islamic or Non-Christian, I got news for the world, she is a natural blonde. How may muslims can say that. She married into a name, which in and of itself should not even matter here. Beleive it or not, there are reasonable Christians that do not condone this behavior. Whe she did was try to make her students act appropriately in a class room and she had leadership support. Her religous beleif is not known, but do not be surprised if you find out she is actually Christian and do not be surprised if Muslim named Husband is as well.

    To the Facebook issue, You may just find that Facebook is to blame for this conversation went public. They changed their software and it caused alot of problems for many people. When you read that conversation it looks like a private one to me, and I see nothing wrong with people expressing these thoughts in private.

    All said and done she does not deserve it, but for the interest in keeping public peace, the following needs to happen.

    – Melissa gets reprimanded
    – She goes back to the same class
    – She is given the authority to reprimand any disruption outside the curriculum
    – The parents are told if they do not agree with the curriculum to remove their children from the school

    Any other response will create a public outcry, and as a citizen of Wake County, our budget is skinney enough that we do not need to waste anymore funds on such foolishness.

    Wake County needs to be aware that these parents are small in number and the silent Majority will not agree to this teacher being fired for such non-sense and the ACLU would most likely step in and blow the Wake County Budget even more negative.

  • Daniel

    The president of this school board has resigned, apparently citing “conscience”:

    No mention is made specifically of Hussain, but I would think that he should have worked to get her re-instated rather than simply walk out.

  • It is wise to keep in mind that everything you type on a computer screen could possibly be read by an unintended audience.

    Also, depending on what words are typed (and programmatically screened for), it might even end up being reviewed by some functionary (who might be a right-wing bible-thumper) at one of our esteemed government agencies (like the NSA) regardless of security settings.

  • @Daniel,

    His resignation was probably due to differences with the newly appointed school board members pushing a very different agenda rather than the treatment of this particular teacher. Granted, though, the new school board members are apparently anti-diversity.

  • aerie

    I grew up in Wake Co Schools & 25yrs ago it was an excellent system. Excellent math, science, english, arts programs. No fundies to speak of. In fact, I’m surprised this is happening in that area (Raleigh/Cary/Apex) which is a large suburb of the Research Triangle Park & has a huge no. of PhDs per capita & the avg income doesn’t fall below 3 figures. It’s NOT some little podunk redneckville (plenty of those too in NC). But, the fundies have infiltrated there too it seems. Shameful.

    That being said, this is ALL about her last name. Are you kidding me? I know these types. All they see is HUSSAIN! OMGZ! The facts don’t matter to their agenda. And I have no doubt some parents are behind this.

    Another point: I think the article said these were middle schoolers. I have 16 & 17yo daughters and they would NEVER behave like this. I don’t know any highschoolers who would.

  • Godless Lawyer

    Hussain may well be a Christian. These student’s may be doing this to her purely because of her ‘muslim sounding’ name.

    I was one of those kids who liked to push teacher’s buttons when I was in school – and can tell you that her intial reaction is just the ‘paydirt’ these kids are looking for, as Hemant says.

    But kudos to Hussain on how she handled it after her initial reaction. There’s a good chance these kids don’t understand the line they’ve crossed and part of what a good teacher does is point it out in the way she did.

  • Derek

    By the time you reach the age of 16-18 you have nearly the same brain development that a 24-25 year old person has (this is when the brain matures IIRC).

    She’s an 8th grade teacher, which would generally work with 13-15 year olds. But even so, you recall incorrectly, or perhaps incompletely…at least when dealing with emotions (which lend a huge impact to level of maturity). When dealing with emotions young teens actually utilize a brain center that controls fear and other types of “gut reactions”. The shift from that brain center to the frontal lobes is gradual over the course of maturation which is considered more or less complete at around 25.

    This just in, people use colorful language when venting on Facebook. The “shaming” probably just meant having a slightly stern talk with the class. She should be judged on what she did, not on offhand comments on Facebook.

    I’d have to disagree, at least partially. Her comments potentially reflect poorly on the school. In a similar manner, if I happened upon an employee commenting on a social networking site that they “told off” a customer, I would reprimand them even if it turned out to be a much milder encounter. Admittedly, my reprimand, would be a simple “be more careful with how you talk about work on .”

    However, it certainly sounds as if she should not have lost her job over this. I’m definitely writing the school.

    Cheers and Excelsior!

  • Concerned Wake County Citizen

    I seriously doubt Superintendent Burns resigned due to the Melissa incident. That was pure coincident. He is most likely leaving, because the new elected board majority is creating a train wreck and he does not want to be part of that mess.

    However, with that background, I could only hope she is helped by this coincident event in that the board members fear their decisions are going to cause them to loose faith (no pun intended, well maybe) with the public, and I can tell you flat out I will be out there fighting to throw these people out if they do not start coming to reality.

  • “By the time you reach the age of 16-18 you have nearly the same brain development that a 24-25 year old person has (this is when the brain matures IIRC).
    Yet a college student is allowed not to take a class if they don’t want to. High schoolers deserve the same choice.”

    I’m going to have to seriously disagree with you there. Teenagers may have the functional capacity of adults but their emotional maturity (and lack of life experience) make them idiots (I speak from experience here!)

    My high school was directly across from a shopping mall. My absentee rate was 52%. In fact, our entire school had a much larger absentee rate than any other school in our district.

    16-18 year olds are not classified as adults for a reason. The reason is that they aren’t able to weigh consequences appropriately in situations.

    As for Melissa Hussain I feel very sorry for what she went through in her class. I was a monster in 8th grade. I reduced my social studies teacher to tears on a weekly basis (something that at the time I was proud of, now I’m very ashamed of it). My English teacher, on the other hand, I didn’t dare put a toe out of line with because she was tough and didn’t respond to my bs.

    Unfortunately by taking the initial bait Mrs. Hussain stoked the fire and provided the students with entertainment as well as a challenge. Early teens can be self righteous dicks at the best of times, throw in a little christian hospitality and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It looks as though this will have to be a battle she’ll fight alone, the parents will obviously side with the kids (after all, little Johnny was trying to SAVE teh ebil Mrs. H.) and the school officials seem to all been gelded.

    (NB The above novel is my opinion I don’t claim to be an expert on child psychology, this is, again, simply my opinion so put down the pitch forks) 😀

  • Staceyjw

    Has anyone figured out her religion, or lack thereof? Not that it matters, as constant conversion attempts and pushing of religion is rude no matter who does it to whom.

    I ask this because another website (jihad watch) is claiming she’s muslim (I didn’t see any proof of this), and the xtians are all on board bashing her over there. Like its OK to torment her as long as she’s muslim! They are nuts. I posted in her defense, and the defense of atheists and religious minorites everywhere.The site’s comments tend toward right wingers, even though the topic of Islamists is non partisan. They are doing the things they rail against, how surprising- NOT!

    Melissa, if you’re reading this- you have every right to stand up to your tormenters, even if they are students. You didn’t do anything wrong, and I find it ironic that xtians complained about “shaming”, since they are all for it when they do it! Good luck.

  • Ron in Houston

    The five-member majority, which includes four Republican-backed newcomers elected last fall, have pitted themselves against supporters of the old board’s long-standing diversity policy.

    People really need to be vigilant. The religious right are targeting these small elections for things like school boards. They’re organized and they vote.

    While I agree the superintendent quitting probably had nothing to do with Hussein, I wanted to post that quote from the news article that someone linked.

  • Infinite Monkey

    It’s not about a book. Its not about two words. It’s about the appearant intentions behind it all. This was not a “I really like Ms. Hussain, and hopes she has a merry christmas”, this was a “heathen needs to convert.” The emphacized the christ in christmas.

    If someone accidentally stepped on your foot, it would hurt, but you’d wish them no ill. If you felt they did it on purpose, you’d sock them.

  • Concerned Wake County Citizen

    As far as I know, her faith remains a mystery, but I resort to my original comment. Have you ever seen a natural blonde Muslim, yes people convert, but have you ever actually seen one, I have not.

    Again Religous beleif is not a factor here and evolution is in the curriculum and she was teaching it without bias. If any parent does not agree with training science that actually has led to great things such as genetic research and biological molecular behavior, all that has produced useful medical solutions, they ARE welcome to move their kids out of public school.

  • Seavee

    suspect that this teacher probably could have handled the situation better. That can be said of most teachers. We are human and sometimes we just do the wrong thing. No one can be perfect all the time. She did not do anything to deserve reprimand.

    Even if she posted on facebook, she did not use names (to my knowledge). I don’t think anyone has any right to comment on what someone posts on a social networking site unless it is a breach of privacy or ethics.

    She definitely does not deserve a reprimand for attempting to control class disruptions. Those students should have been dealt with immediately before things got out of control.

  • Erp

    People do convert and one frequent reason for conversion is marriage. And there are cultural groups of Muslims that have large numbers of blondes (e.g., Chechens). I can’t recall off hand if I’ve knowingly seen a blonde Muslim beyond pictures but then I don’t generally know the religion of most people I meet.

    And students can be really cruel. I remember a high school math teacher who was tormented frequently (not directly by me but I failed to speak up other than by not participating in a student protest when one of her tormentors was suspended [probably 90% of the students did protest though mostly because he was a star basketball player in the middle of the season]).

  • Melissa Hussain

    I think it’s important to look at how this issue is also about RACISM and anti-Islam hysteria. Granted, she’s white, and is not a professing Muslim, but the assumption is there, given her name “Hussain.” Racism is deeply embedded in how this case is being handled, how the teacher is being treated. If her last name was “Smith,” I bet she would be treated differently.

    As the (other) Melissa Hussain who has been mistaken for the one in North Carolina, I’m extremely sympathetic to her situation, as I have personally been subject to much of the hate mail that was meant for her. (If you do a google search for “Melissa Hussain,” it’s primarily my links that show up, so people simply assumed that we’re the same person.)

    Here’s my favorite bit of hate mail, in response to my statement on my blog that I’m not the Melissa Hussain in North Carolina:

    “Yeah, but you’re as big of a liberal kook (pardon the redundancy) as she is, so the attention is warranted. The last place any of you ever need to be is in the academic world.” Ah. Good to know. …I never got that memo that said only conservatives are allowed to be teachers.

    And (drum roll, please) here’s the comment that takes the cake, that is a rather astounding combination of racism, bigotry, ignorance, white supremacy, U.S. exceptionalism, and Orientalism:

    “Please correct me if I am wrong here did I not see somewhere that all Hussains are blood relatives? Muslims Like Sadamm and countless others that are professed enemys of America.I think that she should go with her mate/partner back to his country and see how the right of freedom of speech is handled there,where women must cover their faces and never speak.We dont need these kind of people here,yes Mitch this country was founded on Christian beliefs by western europeans who intended it to stay that way and not become the worlds mother.”
    (on this website:

    This country makes me crazy sometimes.

  • Concerned Wake County Citizen


    Thanks for the cultural knowledge, I probably gave a bad example with the Blonde hair, but that really was not my point. My point is why does everyone not realize that America is a melting pot and marriages occur cross culturally. Not to mention a last name thrown into evil so quickly.

    And why is that even pertinent to the discussion? It should not be.

    Even if she was Muslim I do not see any evidence she pushed her theological beliefs on anyone else, and she was doing the job she was hired to do; Teach evolution and she tried to also teach that disruptions outside curriculum will not be tolerated.

    Despite all that, my biggest concern is economic, and I can only hope that our school board is smart enough to understand the impacts their decisions will have.

  • beckster

    The whole blonde Muslim thing makes me smile because I do in fact know a blonde Muslim and she actually lives in Wake County, NC just a few miles from where this is all taking place 🙂

    I think the teacher should have been far more diligent in what she posted on her facebook page. I taught 8th grade for a few years and know what those kids are capable of and I would tend to say that the easiest way to quiet those kids is to outright ignore them. That being said, she should certainly not lose her job and the students should be reprimanded for their disruptiveness in her classroom.

  • Once again the religious reich uses lies, distortion, and deceit to promote their shameful ideology.

    In this case, I wonder how much of the student’s behavior was approved if not actually planned, by their parents?

    I would have had to ask them, as a general question, if this is something they thought Jesus would do? Or would Jesus even approve of this behavior? I suspect a good percentage of hem would say, “Yes” t both questions.

  • Nick

    ehh, well it’s middle school. The kids’ attitudes can only be *somewhat* understandable, especially in a moderately religious community. I’m not saying this is excusable, and I think the parents are partly at fault for almost encouraging this type of behavior on some of the students…but we need to consider the ages too. You might not think that two years is much, but from own experience high schoolers are a lot more respectful than middle schoolers, especially when it comes to these types of personal subjects.

  • Heidi

    I would like to know why these people were hunting her down on Facebook in the first place. It’s not like you open a FB page and suddenly everyone you ever knew pops up in front of you. They had to go looking for her. Which seems kind of creepy-stalker-ish to me.

  • Mick

    Not an untypical problem teachers face. Often when a campaign like this starts against a teacher the administration will bend the parents way and sacrifice the teacher rather than deal with the hassle.

    The irony is most parents genuinely want to get their kids a good education, by forcing teachers out of their jobs they can actually end up holding their kids back. Some schools have a very high turnover rate of staff for precisely this reason, and the kids education gets set back as each new teacher has to spend time getting to grips with their new class.

    The parents (and kids for that matter) don’t realise by exercising a small amount of power over a spineless principal to get rid of an unpopular or “mean” teacher can actually secure them a worse education for their kids in the long run.

  • Erp

    I wonder is the person quoted who claimed he/she had heard all Husseins were blood relations realizes that all humans are blood relations and the closest common ancestor for any two humans probably isn’t that far back (barring really isolated groups).

  • muggle

    Why is “Harper Valley PTA” suddenly ringing in my head? Methinks the song needs to be updated for the Wake County School Board.

    She handled it badly and the FB comments shouldn’t have been said but the punishment is far exceeding the crime. I suspect purposely.

    She needs a slap on the wrist and maybe some training on how to handle disruptive students and said disruptive students need some detention time to say the least. Maybe an assignment researching religious discrimination and it’s effects.

    As others have stated, no way would this have been tolerated in reverse or in the case of racist slurs to a black teacher or if this was done to a Jewish teacher.

    And, am I the only one wondering why the move to fire her while Freshwater is endlessly support after physically abusing students?

    And someone please sit her down to a good listen to “I am Woman” (sorry for all the pop hits of my youth references). What the hell is with the defense “my husband suggested I blog”? Woman, that’s no defense. You’re an adult presumably capable of thinking for yourself. If not, I might have to amend my opinion of whether or not you should be teaching.

  • Heidi

    As the (other) Melissa Hussain who has been mistaken for the one in North Carolina, I’m extremely sympathetic to her situation, as I have personally been subject to much of the hate mail that was meant for her. (If you do a google search for “Melissa Hussain,” it’s primarily my links that show up, so people simply assumed that we’re the same person.)

    Ouch. I missed this before. Does Jesus tell them to take out everybody with the same name to make sure they get the right one? Like the Terminator did?

  • ckitching

    I believe that scientists have estimated our closest common female ancestor (dubbed “Mitochondrial Eve” because it is calculated based on mitochondrial mutation rates) lived somewhere around 200,000 years ago. Our nearest common male ancestor is estimated to be much closer. “Y-chromosomal Adam” lived somewhere around 60,000 to 90,000 years ago (in this case it uses the mutation rates of the Y-chromosome).

    Of course, I’m sure Biblical creationists have a really good reason why these calculations aren’t true. They always do.

  • Valerie

    This whole incident just goes to show you what is wrong with our country, a lot of kids have absolutely NO respect for adults.

  • Sarah Says:

    I’m going to have to seriously disagree with you there. Teenagers may have the functional capacity of adults but their emotional maturity (and lack of life experience) make them idiots (I speak from experience here!)

    I think a young adult’s lack of emotional maturity is more a product of recent societal changes and less a function of their ability to be mature and responsible adults.

    If you look back in history there were essentially two states to being, childhood and adulthood. There was no middle ground, once a person reached physical maturity they became an adult and started living adult lives. It wasn’t at all uncommon 100 – 150 years ago for a young adult between 14-18 years old to start a full time job, get married, have kids, buy houses, and take on all the responsibilities that we associate with adulthood.

    Parents used to take great pride in ensuring their children had all the skills they needed to be fully functional adults and contribute to society. Nowadays parents seem more interested in their own lives, not bothering to properly teach their children about personal responsibility and how to live as adults.

    I remember reading somewhere that the term “Teenager” wasn’t even in the lexicon until the 1930’s, where people were delaying taking on their adult responsibilities because of the difficulties surviving through the Great Depression. Ever since then whole generations of “kids” have grown up in a society that allows them to delay adulthood until they’re well into their mid to late twenties, and often longer!

    When I talk to my grandparents and other older relatives about their lives as “kids” and what was expected of them, it is a stark contrast to what I see today.

    Young adults are more than capable of handling adult responsibilities, our ancestors did it just fine, but they are no longer able to because parents and society have decided to stop teaching the skills necessary to do so and encouraging what amounts to adult childhood.

    Honestly, I don’t even know if we could fix it. Whole generations of parents have grown up this way, I doubt very many of them have the skills to impart the wisdom necessary for their children to become functional adults before the age of 25. Sadder still, once I get around to having a family, I’d probably be one of them. 🙁

  • Heidi

    That’s not really a fair comparison. 100-150 years ago you didn’t need to go to college or even high school, necessarily in order to get a decent job. My grandfather dropped out of the 3rd grade to work on the family farm. He was born in the late 1800s, and managed to raise five kids just fine. But what kind of job do you think a 3rd grader could get today? You can’t even work the family farm at that age anymore, because farming has changed so much.

  • ckitching

    I think Heidi is quite right. The skills we require people to have has changed quite significantly. It wasn’t all that long ago that most people didn’t need to know how to read. Even more recently, knowing how to read was a good idea, but knowing how to write was somewhat of a luxury.

    Today, if you can’t read or write you’re left out of huge portions of modern life. In fact, complete illiteracy has become so rare that a new term, functional illiteracy, is often used to describe those whose reading and writing skills are merely insufficient rather than nonexistent. Dropping out of school at the third grade won’t help you understand a credit card contract, or the hundreds of other contracts you’re likely to be exposed to in your lifetime. You won’t have enough knowledge to do your taxes. Etc. Our basic biological needs may not have changed, but the number of possible choices on how to achieve them has.

  • Joshua

    The simple truth here is that religion, in any form, shouldn’t be allowed in a PUBLIC school. It’s so easy to blame the students (when really it’s their parents that caused them to be the way they are) or to blame the teacher. Religion should be stricken from schools, even those stupid “bible/god” after-school classes they allow. That’s what church and home is for. But because we live in an asinine nation where the religious wads are allowed to complain about being persecuted (when really THEY are the persecutors) and then get away with this crap. It’s disgusting.

  • Bob

    Those students are lucky I wasn’t their teacher. I would have thrown the Bible in the trash as well. I would have given the kids detention for disrupting the class. I would have worked with the school and pushed for suspension as well.

    There is no excuse for disrupting the class. If the students want to discuss God, they are free to do so at another time. Classroom work is for the subject at hand.

    These students really should have been reading their Bibles more often. I would suggest that they start with the Sermon on the Mount. They should also read Matthew 6 which discusses why they shouldn’t be doing the “good works” just for show. Of course this would be part of the conversation I have with the parents once they start complaining about me removing their problem children from the classroom.

    If only someone could pray for a couple of bears to handle the problem…

  • Cessana

    Why on earth aren’t the school admins using their expensive brains on this one? Let’s replace the bible they were reading in class with “Dracula” and “Jesus loves me” with a little Slayer ditty. Would she still be suspended? These spoiled little monsters were disrupting her class, she had every right to punish them as she saw fit. The kids should be suspended with no option to make up missed work so they have to work three times as hard to salvage their GPAs.

  • cdo

    It won’t of course, but this should upset ALL teachers no matter what their religious beliefs.
    The problem is simply that teachers have no control in their classrooms. Students and parents call the shots, and administrations buckle to their every whim.
    This teacher was trying to establish order so she could actually TEACH. Parents and admin backed the disruptive students. Way to send a message.

  • TPO

    I posted on ths last week (High School Teacher Victim Of Modern Day Christian Witch Hunt) after emailing the school. I was very polite and respectful in the email but I have yet to recieve a response and I don’t really expect to recieve one. I’ve been thinking about calling the school after I get off of word today as well. Has anyone else had any success contacting the school by phone?

  • Former Student

    As a former student of Mrs. Hussain (though I knew her as ms. Blondun as my 8th grade science teacher last year) i can tell you she is a blonde haired white atheist who married a middle eastern man who is either a muslim or an atheist. I am a christian, who is very open minded, and has never hated a teacher in my life, and i can tell you that the way the students acted was inapropriate and disrespectful as well as highly unchristian. I can also tell you that Mellissa Hussain does not deserve to be a teacher. She constantly told my class how much she didnt want to be a teacher, and her dream was to be able to work with tigers (she had a hope to be able to help release tigers into the wild that was shot down by multiple people.) She made her personal life very public to me and my classmates, showing us videos and photos of her wedding at builtmore estate and her costa rican honeymooon, as well as the trouble she encountered at airports due to bias against her last name and how that made her angry (rightfully so, but inapropriate in a classroom). She would talk to us about the planning of her wedding, and how all of the eigth grade teachers were invited EXCEPT one, my tracks language arts teacher. She even wrote in my yearbook “well behaved girls seldom make history” so in my opinion she got what she asked for with this class full of dissobediant in your face students. She swore to me and my class mates that she would NEVER friend us on facebook, but then when budget cuts forced her job to be elimanated and her to be fired, she friended all of just to spite wcpss. I can safely say that the students were wrong in what they did, and also that Mrs. Hussein was wrong to make her face book profile public. I can also say that she should not be a teacher, though for reasons aside from this particular event.

  • TPO

    To Former Student,

    You sound like the real deal and your comments, if true, shed a new light on this case form me. I agree that she shouldn’t be a teacher if she is not truly devoted to educating her students; however, there is no excuse for the behavior of those students or their parents.

    Also, her facebook comments did not mention any names, were not offensive by any reasonable measure and did not warrant her being suspended and seemed to be sought out by said students and their parents. It’s not like she was expressing these opinions in class or to the parents or was she?

  • Heidi

    Frankly, I don’t think a 15-year-old is in any position to judge whether or not someone “deserves” her job.

    The most Mrs. Hussain is guilty of is over-sharing some of her personal life. And if they fired every teacher I ever had who did that… well there would be fewer teachers. Let me put it that way.

    As for the rest, I absolutely think that profiling at the airport is appropriate for classroom discussion. And I see nothing wrong with the saying that she quoted in the yearbook.

  • Aeiluindae

    I’m going to admit to giving some teachers a hard time in school. Some of them I think deserved it, still, because they didn’t know the subject matter they were teaching, or things like that. That being said, the kids here were way out of line, as everyone agrees, here. I was a creationist when I was that age, but I tried not to be an ass about it. I learned very early on that teachers deserve respect, especially when they do their jobs. That’s unfortunately a lesson that many of my fellow students missed.
    My favourite teacher in high school was one who wasn’t afraid to share her own beliefs (she was an atheist, I’m a Christian, we had good, constructive talks), but she made sure that others were treated with respect.

  • Uncorrect

    Okay, it seems logic and ethical treatment isn’t the way to go with this particular group. Time to do it the historically Christian way. They will at least understand that.

    Let’s start by murdering everyone who openly doesn’t practice something other than Christianity. It worked in Rome.

    Then we move to burning people who are different than us at the stake, hanging, and stoning them. It worked throughout the middle ages clear into early American culture. We must make sure that most of them aren’t guilty of any actual crime or even theological difference in most cases.

    Finally, let’s declare all people of an entire religion are militant terrorists – that they need to be Non-christian or get out of our country – and kick their ass out of their jobs in public service if they disagree with our religion.

    That seems about fair, doesn’t it?

  • intheknow

    Some on here were asking about her faith. Despite the her last name, she’s is white and a Christian (Lutheran) herself. How do I know? I was at the wedding. Yes she is married to someone of Pakistani descent though he is 1/2 Caucaisian himself.

  • Heidi

    @intheknow: How is she doing? Will she be able to return to work?

  • Ray

    It’s sad to think these sort of things happen in the country, but they do. It makes my stomach churn when I think of a non-Christian student in this harsh environment. At least the teacher has some authority over these rude kids.

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