Hingham teacher apologizes for insensitive LGBTQ tweet

HINGHAM, Mass. — Hingham High School’s gym teacher has apologized for an insensitive comment he posted on Twitter.

Physical Education teacher Jon Rice replied to a tweet the Boston Red Sox posted on June 7th about LGBTQ Pride month. Rice has since removed his comment and made his Twitter account private.

Rice replied to the post, “Nothing to be proud of here Red Sox. We don't need rainbows on the pitchers mound.. what's next rainbow uniforms? Rainbow home plate? Rainbow monster?”

Some members of the Hingham High School community expressed their concerns about the post, which got the attention of school leaders.

“They were perceived by a number of readers as inappropriate at best and possibly homophobic,” Superintendent Dr. Dorothy Galo said in a statement to Boston 25 News.

Dr. Galo said she and principal Rick Swanson were disappointed by Rice’s lapse in judgment. She called Rice a respected teacher and noted the high school faculty and students made great strides this school year to create a more welcoming and respectful environment for all students.

“I know that apologies can't erase the upset that individuals reading the posts may have felt or the resulting negative attention to our school's culture and climate that so many students and staff have worked hard to improve,” said Dr. Galo.

Swanson sent a letter to students, parents and teachers on Thursday to address the controversy.

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Swanson’s letter read, in part, “In apologizing to me [Wednesday] night, and to his students [Thursday], this teacher acknowledged a ‘very poor choice of words’ that failed to convey the message he had intended to deliver.”

Included in the letter was an apology from Rice, himself. "I am truly sorry for making a statement that clearly offended and hurt people,” he said. “I respect and value all of my students, and I deeply regret making statements that might suggest otherwise."

Dr. Galo said she acknowledges Rice’s ‘sincere and prompt response by removing the objectionable posts and  taking full responsibility for trying to mitigate the unintended emotional harm’ that has resulted.”

Full Statement from Dr. Dorothy Galo, Hingham Public Schools Superintendent:

"Yesterday our high school principal Rick Swanson wrote a letter to the Hingham High School community to address concerns that had been expressed to us as a result of some Twitter exchanges posted by a member of our faculty.  They were perceived by a number of readers as inappropriate at best and possibly homophobic. Certainly, I join HHS Principal Swanson in his disappointment about this lapse in judgment by a respected teacher who used social media to vent some personal frustrations. This was especially regrettable given the positive efforts that HHS faculty and students have given this year to create a more welcoming and respectful environment for all students. I know that apologies can't erase the upset that individuals reading the posts may have felt or the resulting negative attention to our school's culture and climate that so many students and staff have worked hard to improve.   I do acknowledge, however, this teacher's sincere and prompt response by removing the objectionable posts and  taking full responsibility for trying to mitigate the unintended emotional harm and unfortunate media attention that has resulted."

Full letter Principal Rick Swanson sent to students, parents and teachers: 

Dear HHS Community:
 
I am writing to inform you about an issue we are confronting this week at Hingham High School. I became aware yesterday afternoon that a member of our high school faculty had used a personal Twitter account to publicly post statements that were perceived by many to be homophobic and thus contrary to the values of our school.
 
The offending comments have since been removed and the Twitter account (previously public) has been privatized.  In apologizing to me last night, and to his students today, this teacher acknowledged a "very poor choice of words” that failed to convey the message he had intended to deliver. "I am truly sorry for making a statement that clearly offended and hurt people," he said. "I respect and value all of my students, and I deeply regret making statements that might suggest otherwise." 
 
I believe in the sincerity of this teacher's apology, as he is a well-respected professional with a long record of service to our students. Over the course of many years, I have known him to  be a person of integrity who treats all students with respect.  However, I remain very disappointed by the Twitter comments, since they did not reflect the spirit of community we work so hard to build in our school. Student groups like the HHS Gay-Straight Alliance (an established part of our school culture for two decades) contribute enormously to this effort, and the teacher will meet with this group tomorrow (at his request) to extend to them a personal apology. 
 
My office, like many classrooms throughout the building, contains a poster that reads: "This is a safe and inclusive space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies. All students deserve a safe and welcoming school environment." Our teachers work hard to help us move ever closer toward that goal, and we expect nothing less from them.
 
As summer approaches and we reflect on the events of the past year, I hope we can all recommit to strengthening the bonds of community that have brought us this far. A professional development workshop on cultural proficiency, already planned for October, will provide an opportunity early next year for all secondary teachers to do so. A representative from the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students (affiliated with the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) is also scheduled to speak with our faculty in the early fall.  In the face of challenges, we will not relent in striving to build a community that is defined by tolerance and respect for everyone.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rick Swanson
Principal