From The “How Often Can Something Like This Happen In An Ethical Profession?” Files: The Art Teacher’s Meltdown

I know a lot of teachers get angry with me for my increasing certitude that they are in an unethical profession with some ethical members (like them), rather than an ethical profession with isolated unethical exceptions. This incident supports my critical views. Unless mental illness is involved, an adult doesn’t belong to a profession with well-defined standards and ethics rules and act like this.

At W.H. Adamson High School in Dallas, Texas, art students were treated to an epic meltdown by their teacher, Payal Modi, who screamed “Die!” and shot President Trump’s image on the screen with a water gun as students watched his inauguration on TV.  A student caught this on video, and Modi, who was proud of the planned display, posted it to her Instagram account.

This is more political indoctrination the classroom, which educators not today only tolerate but nurture. A teacher modelling violence toward any individual, but especially the President of The United States, in front of students, is such a stunning breach of professional ethics that no teacher should  have the idea even flicker across her mind. Payal Modi planned it.  A teacher who behaves like this cannot be trusted with students. A teacher like Modi calls into question everyone and every institution connected with her.

Adamson High School assistant principal Bobby Nevels confirmed that Modi shot the squirt gun at the TV, during class and in front of students. It is six days later. Why does she have a job? Why has the school not made a public apology? Why hasn’t the teachers’ union condemned her actions?

In eight years, no teacher did anything displaying close to this level of hostility and disrespect to President Obama. What do you think the reaction would have been by a school district if one had? Would the official position be, as Nevels’ was, “The district will not comment on personnel issues.” How about reassuring parents and the public that the district recognizes that this isn’t just a personnel issue, but an incident that calls into question the integrity of the education system and the  teaching profession? Modi is the product of an unethical culture that is rotting public education from within.

Is there a specific Teachers Code of Conduct provision, enforced and universal, that would guide a teacher not to do something this outrageous? The NEA has a Code, but there is no enforcement mechanism. There is also no prohibition against demonstrating hostility and disrespect toward public figures, or engaging in violent displays in class. Here are the provisions relevant to Modi’s meltdown:

In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator–

1. Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning.

2. Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view.

3. Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student’s progress.

4. Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.

I have no doubts that the NEA women who marched on Sunday would argue that none of these tenets were violated. After all, it’s reasonable to make it clear that students should hate and fear this President, isn’t it?  It’s not unreasonable to indoctrinate students sufficiently that they are immunized from the attraction of The Dark Side, as in anything that runs counter to progressive cant. Distortion? What distortion? The man’s a monster, another Hitler, and deserves to die. This teacher was making a reasonable effort to protect her students from “conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.”

Serious professional codes of conduct don’t permit these deceits. Professions that care about professionalism don’t give off mixed signals when a member betrays the public trust so blatantly.

My guess? Modi will still be teaching a year from now.

And that is tragic.

UPDATE: I checked again. She was finally placed on administrative leave today, while the district “investigates.”

34 thoughts on “From The “How Often Can Something Like This Happen In An Ethical Profession?” Files: The Art Teacher’s Meltdown

      • I just fired off a scatter-shot salvo that apparently hit the bullseye.

        Heck, I wasn’t trying to take aim or unload on anyone specifically, that’d just trigger a return volley.

        I’m flattered you believe I zeroed in on the target, I’ll keep my powder dry.

        The Re-education Gulag should have me in their sights by now, when I’m discharged it’s hoped I’ll have become a straight shooter…

  1. CNN’s online story about this is telling. Here’s their headline and incredible first two paragraphs:

    Dallas school district investigating clip of staff shooting water gun at Trump picture

    A Dallas school district is investigating an employee who posted a video of a person shooting a water gun at President Donald Trump’s image while yelling “Die!” according to a video posted to social media.

    “#Leftist #Socialist #Teacher Brainwashing our children to hate! Reminds me of Arabs teaching their kids to hate #Jews,” tweeted Where’s Mom, a Louisiana-based user describing himself as “husband, Father of 3 Proudly clinging to my Bible & Guns.”


    First of all, they omit the word “teacher” from their headline. It wasn’t the janitor who did this!

    Second: What does that lead even mean? The district is investigating an employee who posted a video of a “person” (again, avoiding the “T” word)?? I would think they’d be investigating that staffer…er, teacher!

    But the most egregious journalistic ethical lapse is in that mind-boggling second paragraph, quoting a Tweet from someone who is “proudly clinging to my Bible & Guns.”

    Are you $%%^# kidding me?!? I’ve been a mainstream media journalist for more than 20 years, and I’m fairly well-versed on the inverted pyramid, and how a news story should be constructed. That tweet doesn’t belong anywhere in this story, let alone in the second paragraph! It’s like CNN is bending over backward to portray anyone criticizing this staffer’s — er, teacher’s — actions as a gun and Bible nut.

    CNN is an absolute disgrace.

    • I concur. “Proudly clinging to my Bible and guns” is a witty appropriation of President Obama’s real quote about what he thinks of rural Pennsylvanians. Making CNN’s report even more pathetic, as I doubt they provided that context. They want readers to assume that this random person is not the least bit self-aware, and that there is an army of kooks out there ready to crucify the poor educator, as represented by that tweet. I wonder what CNN intern was tasked with digging up the most unflattering quote possible to “represent” those who find this teacher’s conduct unacceptable.

      (Incidentally, Where’s Mom’s tweet is unassailable correct anyway.)

    • Now, see, I call that fake news. It’s worthy of a post all by itself. Minimal checking would have shown that the teacher did the shooting, and that the teacher posted the video as well.

      Dallas school district investigating clip of staff shooting water gun at Trump picture

      A Dallas school district is investigating an employee who posted a video of a person shooting a water gun at President Donald Trump’s image while yelling “Die!” according to a video posted to social media.

      Falsities: Not an “employee, but a teacher”….not an “image” but the live Inauguration…not a “person” but a teacher, and perhaps in class. And as you say, why the emphasis on the tweet?

  2. There is a huge disparity between what teachers actually earn and what they SHOULD earn. Teaching should be among the highest paid, most exclusive and most respected fields. It is one of the most vital professions, along with doctors, police, firefighters and research scientists. Pay police and teachers 100-200K per year with a nice benefit and retiremnet package and you will get good people entering the fields. There would be less dirty cops and bad cops and less incompetent teachers. If it paid as well as it should it would become an attractive job and the weakest players would be eliminated. I look at the obscene amounts of money entertainers, athletes, lawyers and many CEO’s make and can’t help but wish there was a way to make people realize that the teachers are far more important to the future of our world than all of the pro athletes could ever hope to be.

    • Higher pay doesn’t result in better behavior or a higher level of competence. The biggest problem is the union. I worked in a high-paying unionized profession. In too many instances, union dues = incompetence insurance.

      • Maybe they should all be college professors; they are the highest paid state employees in Virginia, and they have to protect the poor snowflakes from the real world..

    • Here we go again with the low paid teacher routine. i had a whole post about it but I deleted it. I am so sick of dragging my ass to work year round, evenings, and weekends, and having to hear them bitch about being underpaid while simultaneously claim they’re not in it for the money. But I digress….

    • I agree with the sentiment, but LeBron James makes millions of dollars because of the principle of scarcity. Literally no one on earth can replace him or do what he does. Whereas most well-spoken, decent people of medium intelligence or higher could probably be pretty good teachers.

      Unlike being a surgeon or research scientist, educating a child does not require an elite set of skills. Parents with the time and motivation to educate their own kids generally produce better-than-average results. And alas, the teachers’ unions, as currently configured, don’t allow for the kind of meritocracy that would help elite teachers get paid more than average ones.

    • Can’t get there from here. Paying really good teachers more would make sense, but the unions won’t allow us to get rid of really bad teachers. The laws prohibit kicking out disruptive students, as the whole system is skewed to protect the poor and unmotivated students at the expense of those who want to learn. The system worked when overqualified women taught as one of few options open to them. It’s busted. I don’t know what the better system will be, but throwing money into this model now is insanity defined.

    • Entertainers, athletes, lawyers and many CEO’s do draw their salaries out of our pockets via tax money. If we elect to pay them, we do so voluntarily. The teachers are also vastly more important than the superintendents, at least one of which is making a quarter of a million a year…also out of taxes.

  3. In eight years, no teacher did anything displaying close to this level of hostility and disrespect to President Obama.

    Though it’s hard to do in the current bizarro world, I do try to remain objective, and thus suggest an edit here.

    “In eight years, we never saw a video displaying this level of hostility and disrespect to President Obama. In fairness, at the start of Obama’s term, less than half of the United States was playing with Facebook and Twitter, as far as most of the world is concerned, didn’t even exist.

    I can’t say it didn’t happen. But it certainly didn’t go viral.”

    • Maybe people who did similar things to Obama on screen are not stupid enough to post it on social media as if it were an heroic act.

      • Good point, which raises another point: I know teacher who say they’re scared to death to say anything that has the slightest whiff of controversy. So amid that PC atmosphere, it speaks volumes that a teacher would think it’s ok to not only do something like this, but post it on social media. There are several examples of teachers openly expressing anti-Trump sentiments with no repercussions. So why wouldn’t this lady think it’s perfectly ok to do this? I wonder if her suspension is with pay? Either way, I’ll bet my next 5 paychecks she doesn’t get fired.

        I strongly recommend homeschooling for anyone who can afford it. Public schools have always been indoctrination centers, but in recent years they’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

  4. Depending what state you are in, your statement is generally true. There some conservative teachers: However they mostly keep their mouths shut for fear of being ostracized by the majority of their colleagues. The NEA invariably endorses Democratic candidates at the National level and sends out email warnings about possible appointments of people who favor school choice.

    • “You clearly just don’t understand performance art.”

      Funny, that’s exactly what I thought that was, when I first saw it. I was even willing to believe that some students were framing a teacher, or another student, to cover for themselves while playing-out their creation captured on video. I looked at the apparently young-womanly figure, and thought, “No. That has to be a student – can’t be a teacher – too young, too skinny.” I still can’t believe how wrong I was.

      And now I’m wondering: What are the ethics of, say, making a video of someone shooting at the woman in the video, the same way she is shooting? Call it “Vigilante Secret Service to the Rescue! #Save DJT.” I would want that video to use an actual starter pistol, though, to make sure the sound of the shooting is somewhat realistic. To paraphrase DJT, it would be beautiful…it’ll be great…shoot the shooter…justice and order. True performance art, or, artistry, or, freedom of speech and expression.

    • That has been my suspicion since day one of Trump’s campaign: He is most hated by those who hate him because he plays by the rules of the people who think they are the only people entitled to play by those rules.

  5. I didn’t know that there was no “official” code of conduct in the NEA prohibiting actions such as this. My guess is most districts have them. Some teacher in my district made a stink last year because the district said she needs to park across the street due to all of the political bumper stickers on her car. Most teachers I spoke to thought this was a fair request. Our handbook makes it clear that political activity on the job, to any degree, isn’t tolerated. I can’t imagine this happening on my campus, and if it did, no one would defend it.

  6. Jack, I think you may be inadvertently creating a Chinese Robber fallacy, produced by the selection bias inherent in viral videos. Given 3.1 million teachers in the US, if .1% have no issue with indoctrinating students into being “on the right side of history”, 19.9% secretly agree and will campaign against holding the terrible ones accountable, another 70% just keep their heads down to do their job, and only 10% are willing to sacrifice their career pointing out that emperor has no clothesthat, then that leaves 3,100 terrible teachers and 620,000 willing to protect them and insufficient push back to do anything about it. The prevalence of student cell phones means teachers are getting caught more, but I’m not sure it’s enough to call the profession as a whole unethical.

    Even at 1 a day, 3100 would take more than 8 years to identify them all.

    • One a day would be a good start. This includes college faculty using the F bomb about Trump. They will predictably start screaming about academic freedom.

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