Richmond Hill teacher fired after investigation into 'racist' tweets
Richmond Green teacher Michael Marshall has been dismissed following student allegations of anti-Muslim posts online.
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A Richmond Hill teacher has been fired following a 10-week investigation into “racist” comments critical of Islam that he allegedly posted online.
Michael Marshall was dismissed following a meeting of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) on Tuesday, said board spokesperson Licinio Miguelo.
Miguelo said no one at the school or the board would be available to comment further.
Marshall could not be reached on Tuesday or Wednesday for comment.
The investigation began after students at Richmond Green Secondary School discovered a Twitter account, @firstatheist, which featured a profile picture of Marshall and numerous tweets mentioning pupils’ names.
At the time, the @YRDSB Twitter account said the board takes “concerns about racist tweets very seriously and are investigating.”
The @firstatheist account tweeted more than 4,500 times, including messages that said:
- “I get sad when girls I teach decide to wear the hijab. I feel like a failure,”
- “Hijabs make me sad.”
- “Just have a trailer full of guns roll down the street and arm the ghetto. Oh wait that’s black ppl.”
- “Kinda have this perverse urge to wear a hijab for a day and twerk in the street.”
- “There is an absolute s***-ton of Muslims at Ikea tonight. Any special occasion?”
- “I’m sorry but sharia law is incompatible with my democratic secular nation. You can have it, but keep it over there in backward land.”
- “Decided that I am way too racist to be a teacher #theycantbreathe”
The @firstatheist account has remained inactive since June 25.
Students also discovered the Twitter account linked to a Weebly blog post dated Aug. 25, 2014, where the author self-identified as a 30-something teacher in Toronto who runs a gay-straight alliance group.
Marshall supervised a GSA club, as well as a slam-poetry society, at Richmond Green.
The Weebly blog included a post mentioning a trip to the “Bible belt of the American south.” Torstar News Service verified that Marshall visited the area with one of his acquaintances.
Someone claiming to be a former student wrote on the blog after the news first broke: “With all the negativity on Twitter and the uncertainty that's clouded everyone's judgment, I’m not sure if I’ll see you next year.
“Whether that’s the case or not, I'd like to thank you for all your thought-provoking lessons and your willingness to overextend yourself to help a student improve.”
Another wrote: “I can't thank you enough for spreading this idea of free thought all throughout the semester.”
On Twitter, Marshall self-identifies as the author of another account, @marshallisaboss. No tweets have come from that account since the allegations were made.
That account only mentions Muslims once, quoting an article saying that Valentine’s Day is a threat to Muslim values, to which he responds “really? No rose for you … do we agree with this?”
In 2010, a teacher at Woodbridge College named Mike Marshall was given an “Unsung Hero” award by the Educational Services Committee of District 16. Marshall was a teacher at the school at that time, where his score on the website ratemyteachers.com was an impressive 4.7 out of 5 stars.
More than 30 reviews on the site rate Marshall positively at Richmond Green, with students appearing to claim he is an “amazing teacher” who is “very understanding” and goes “that extra mile.” One review on the site from May 11 reads: “He is also very opinionated about controversial topics such as religion and often comes across as insensitive to others beliefs inappropriate for a classroom.”
Speaking to Torstar in June, YRDSB co-ordinating superintendent Cecil Roach said he knew the teacher personally and the allegations would be “very disturbing” if true, because “one of the lead poets in the slam group is a hijab-wearing girl.”
Asgari, 17, who was taught by Marshall as part of the slam team, said she cannot recall a time Marshall was openly racist, but said “he told me before he has other accounts, and I remember him saying he argues with Muslim extremists on Twitter.
“They were little remarks, and I always thought he was joking because I looked up to him as a teacher.”
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