Douglas County teacher apologizes for Twitter posts

Social media comments have garnered national attention

Posted 1/24/19

A Douglas County teacher is on paid leave after screenshots of controversial Twitter posts went viral. Michelle Grissom, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch, apologized for the tweets in an email on Jan. 25.

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Douglas County teacher apologizes for Twitter posts

Social media comments have garnered national attention

Posted

A Douglas County teacher is on paid leave after screenshots of controversial Twitter posts went viral.

Michelle Grissom, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch, apologized for the tweets in an email on Jan. 25.

On Jan. 20, a tweet by Grissom called out a Kentucky student, claiming he participated in a controversial rally in Washington, D.C., over the weekend that made national headlines. The post referred to the student as training to be part of the “Hitler Youth.”

The student she mentioned by name, however, was not actually at the rally.

Grissom — whose Twitter account has since been deleted — also served on the local teachers' union. Kallie Leyba, president of Douglas County Federation, confirmed that Grissom resigned from her position on the union's executive board the morning of Jan. 23. Leyba said she could not further comment on the matter due to the union's policy on personnel issues.

On Jan. 25, Grissom emailed an apology to the family of the boy she mentioned in the tweet, a statement she also sent to media outlets. Leyba verified that the email account belongs to Grissom. In her statement, Grissom expressed remorse for her actions and for not making a public apology sooner.

"I would like to formally apologize for tweets I posted on Saturday, 1/20... I have not been able to make statements or comment on the matter, but I need for you to know how repentant I am about what happened," the statement says. "As an educator, I care deeply for children and would never want to cause harm."

When Colorado Community Media responded to the email, Grissom replied that she has no further comment and directed questions to the Douglas County Federation.

Videos from the D.C. rally show a group of students — many wearing red, "Make America Great Again" hats — from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, hollering and cheering school chants while an Indigenous Peoples March took place. One of the students drew national attention by standing face-to-face with a Native American, who was playing a drum during the march.

The Kentucky students were in D.C. for a March for Life anti-abortion rally.

After Grissom's tweet that called out the student by name, the youth's father responded to the post, stating that his son had been traveling for a basketball game at the time of the rally. The father asked Grissom to remove the post.

After a chain of tweets back and forth, Grissom apologized to the family for misidentifying a “racist and disrespectful student.” The student's father went on to call Grissom's behavior “totally abhorrent” and her actions “inexcusable.”

In an email to parents on Jan. 21, Shannon Clarke, principal of Mountain Ridge Middle School, addressed the matter.

“I have been made aware of comments on social media that involve a member of the MRMS community," Clarke wrote. "We are addressing this situation, as appropriate. If you have questions or concerns specific to your student, please contact me.”

Clarke sent another email to parents on Jan. 23, confirming that "Michelle Grissom is currently on leave" and ensuring a smooth transition for students. A substitute teacher would be in the classroom as needed, Clarke wrote in the email.

The district declined to provide further details.

The district's policy on social media encourages employees to be thoughtful about what they post online and to avoid using statements, photos, videos or audio that could be viewed as malicious, unprofessional or threatening. The full policy is listed in the district's employee guide, under the tab “Social Media.”

Through social media, dozens of Douglas County parents have raised concerns about Grissom and the Twitter incident. Many have publicly demanded Grissom be fired or sued.

Some social media users have backed Grissom, commending her teaching style.

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