An Urbana teacher fired after sending a text message about using her CCW and later sending another text with an altered image of her principal’s face on a shooting range target says the actions were hyperbolic and a cry for help.
Nori McCall-Fasse was a first-grade teacher at Urbana North Elementary School and a 19-year teaching vet before she was placed on paid leave and eventually fired for the text messages. The district said she violated board policies prohibiting threatening conduct.
McCall-Fasse had appealed her firing all the way to Champaign County Common Pleas Court where Judge Nick Selvaggio ruled in favor of the termination.
McCall-Fasse told the Springfield News-Sun this week that she never meant to threaten her former principal, Julie Willoughby, and she still believes her firing was wrong.
“If I was going to hurt Julie Willoughby, I would have sent it directly to her if I wanted to scare her,” McCall-Fasse said. “What I made was never for her to even ever see. That wasn’t my intention. My coworkers were really close and every night we were always texting our frustrations. Those were the safe people to go to.”
“It’s not my personality to be violent with anyone ever,” McCall-Fasse said. “It’s just not me. The people who know me know that.”
She said she believes she was fired because she spoke up for the rights of her students and questioned the school’s administration.
McCall-Fasse said she questions the policy the board used to terminate her, that Urbana Superintendent’s Charles Theil’s recommendation for termination was arbitrary and that she deserved a lesser punishment. She said she doesn’t believe anyone actually felt threatened because of her text messages.
An internal school investigation was launched by Urbana Superintendent Charles Theil after the school district was alerted of a text where McCall-Fasse asked a school secretary to retrieve her substitution folder because Willoughby alerted her there were items missing in it, according to an Ohio Department of Education referee findings report obtained by this newspaper.
“Something is about to get “real”! Can I please have my stupid sub folder put into my mailbox? I’m about ready to use my CCW!! (angry face emoji) (angry face emoji) JW is freakin’ crazy!”, the text read according to the referee report.
The text message was sent on Sept. 15, 2017, according to the referee’s report, but was not reported to Willoughby until Sept. 18, 2017 and McCall-Fasse wasn’t alerted she was placed on paid administrative leave until the end of the school day.
McCall-Fasse sent another text message to a co-worker with Willoughby’s head superimposed onto a shooting range target. Willoughby said during the referee hearing that the image made her feel sick.
“Dr. Willoughby testified that, as a result of learning about the altered photograph, she ‘was extremely upset… [b]ecause now I knew that — you know, before she had said that she was going to use her CCW and she did a picture of it, so that made me feel like this is really serious, that she’s planning something, now I’m in danger. I felt sick,’” the report says.
However, the referee questioned the actions taken during internal investigation including whether it was thorough enough and found that the district was wrong to fire McCall-Fasse.
“Accordingly, the referee finds that the Urbana City School District Board of Education has failed to provide reliable, probative and substantial evidence that there existed good and just cause for Ms. McCall-Fasse’s termination and recommends that they proceed to reinstate Ms. McCall-Fasse and consider other disciplinary options,” the report says.
But, the district is not bound to follow the referee’s orders and elected to terminate her anyway. Theil declined to comment on the situation other than to say “I think I can say that the board and administration of district are relieved to finally have this issue resolved.”
McCall-Fasse is not teaching and says she’s not sure if she ever wants to go back into a classroom.
“It hasn’t ruined my career, but it’s hard for me to get over wanting to go back to another school district because of the trauma I went through. It would be hard to believe anything will ever be different because it is so fresh in my mind.”
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