Diane Tirado is a Florida teacher making headlines after she claimed she was fired for giving students zeros when they didn’t turn in their homework. Her former employer denies that was the reason, but has not given a more detailed explanation as to why Tirado was terminated.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Diane Tirado Left a Note on the Whiteboard For Her Students After Being Terminated
Diane Tirado taught social studies at West Gate K-8 School in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. She said that when several students declined to turn in a recent homework assignment, she gave them zero credit.
The school’s handbook states that the lowest grade a teacher is permitted to give is 50 percent, even when the student does not complete the work. Tirado said she asked school administrators about it, and that they reiterated that she should follow the instructions laid out in the handbook.
Tirado was fired on September 14. She told WPTV-TV that the principal sent her a letter but did not explain why she was being terminated.
Since Tirado was unable to say say goodbye to her students, she left a message on the whiteboard. It read, “Bye kids, Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% for not handing anything in. Mrs. Tirado.” She said an administrator erased the message, but that she just rewrote it, snapped a photo and posted it on Facebook. The image has been shared more than 1,000 times.
2. The School Handbook Printed In Bold Red Ink That The Lowest Possible Grade is 50 Percent
The student-parent handbook is readily accessible on the school’s website. The full text is embedded above. On page 25, the grading policy is clearly laid out.
Each letter grade corresponds with a 10-point range. A failing grade is listed as 50-59 percent. Underneath the graph, in bold red lettering, it states: “*****NO ZERO’s- LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%.”
2. The School’s Information Officer Released a Statement That Denied That Teachers Could Not Issue Grades of Zero Credit, But Again Did Not Specify Why Tirado was Terminated
As of September 25, Tirado was still listed on the school’s website as a social studies teacher. She had just started working at West Gate K-8 this school year.
The school has denied that teachers are prohibited from issuing grades less than 50 percent, despite what is clearly visible in the student-parent handbook. The chief information officer for the school, Kerry Padrick, issued a statement to local media. It reads:
“Diane Tirado was employed as a teacher for St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) from July 30, 2018 to September 14, 2018. She was contracted as a teacher on probationary status, and was terminated shortly after one month of classroom instruction.
SLPS values the importance of maintaining a high-quality teaching staff who support students’ individualized learning needs; who understand the value of forming appropriate and positive relationships with students, colleagues, and parents; and who provide accurate and productive feedback to students on assignments. Wavering on the expectations of quality is not an option.
There is no District or individual school policy prohibiting teachers from recording a grade of zero for work not turned in. The District’s Uniform Grading System utilizes letter grades A-F, numerical grades 100-0 and grade point averages from 4-0.”
4. Diane Tirado Shared On Facebook That a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit May Be Possible
Tirado shared on Facebook that she met with the teacher’s union in light of her firing. She was initially told the union could not push back because she was on probation. But Tirado then found out that she might be able to sue for wrongful termination.
She explained: “Wrongful termination remains to be seen. I was employed for a full year with the st. Lucie school board and was reappointed. I took a year off of teaching for personal reasons and then returned to the classroom. I am waiting for clarification of my probationary period. Supposedly, a teacher is off probation after a year of teaching. Since I was reappointed and only took a year off, I may be off the probation time.”
According to her Linkedin page, Diane Tirado graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 1998. She earned degrees in secondary education and sociology.
On Facebook, she lists a few of her former teaching jobs. Tirado previously taught math at Ormond Beach Middle School in the Florida town of the same name for four school years. She was a reading teacher at Campbell Middle School in Smyrna, Georgia, though she does not mention for how long. She also lists the Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies as an employer, where she taught math.
5. Tirado Argues That the Grading Policy Does Not Benefit Students and Supporters Are Rallying Behind Her
Diane Tirado shared a message on Facebook on September 25, to address why she has chosen to speak out about her situation. She wrote, “I am reading all the posts you have written and reflecting upon them. The reason I took on this fight was because it was ridiculous. Teaching should not be this hard. Teachers teach content, children do the assignments to the best of their ability and teachers grade that work based on a grading scale that has been around a very long time.
Teachers also provide numerous attempts to get the work collected so they can give a child a grade. By nature, most teachers are loving souls who want to see students succeed. We do above and beyond actual teaching to give them the support they need. Are we perfect? NO. We make mistakes like all other human beings, but I know teachers work their butts off to help children to be the best people they can be!!!”
Tirado says the West Gate school needs to change its grading policies, arguing that giving a student half credit for not doing any work sends the wrong message. WPEC-TV quoted Tirado as saying, “I’m arguing the fact that you don’t get something for nothing. I want the policy changed, and it’s not just here.”
Tirado has received a multitude of supportive messages on Facebook since the firing. Some of those comments include:
Cheryl Mott Carasick: “Administration should be saying to the teachers “we need to find out why the child is not turning things in and let us help you.” That is the solution. Giving a child 50% sends the message that the adults truly don’t care, and we are allowing US to fail to educate the WHOLE child. The theory that a child should be able to opt out of assignments makes the assumption that the child somehow is just deciding to not and is mature enough to do so. No, this is a situation of adults failing our children whose frontal lobes are not developed enough to make this decision.THIS IS A HORRIBLE idea!
Meredith Zigman Sanchez: “Theoretically – a kid can turn in 1/5 assignments and pass – they would get a 60 D when they only did 1 thing- that’s incredible- this is what is wrong with society- it’s the lawnmower parenting- instead of being a helicopter and hovering to help kids they literally mow and remove obstacles before kids ever face them- they have no idea how to function in society and the value of success since they never learn from failing since they never fail.”
MaryAnn Hersh: “Diane Tirado you did right the school is dead wrong. Now this shows why the young people today don’t want to work but still want to get paid. You are so right not to give that student a 50% for no work.”
Michelle McCown: “If my kid didnt do the work he doesn’t deserve a 50%!!! This is encouraging him to be lazy.”