Teacher says student protest of Pledge of Allegiance led to TikTok that got her fired

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:29 AM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KEYE) - A Texas elementary school teacher says she was fired over a TikTok video discussing a meeting in which she was questioned about why her students decided to protest the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, she’s fighting for policy changes to keep it from happening to someone else.

Sophia Deloretto-Chudy, a former third grade teacher at Austin’s Becker Elementary School, says a school administrator called her into a meeting in March for a check-in. Being a first-year educator, hired with no teaching experience, she thought the meeting would address the challenges she was facing in her new role.

Instead, the administrator told Deloretto-Chudy she wanted to go over a list of concerns.

“The whole meeting just felt incredibly demoralizing,” Deloretto-Chudy said.

The former teacher says one of the concerns was listed as “an intentional attempt at teaching your students their legal and constitutional rights.”

“She went on to ask me what brought about the decision for my students to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance,” Deloretto-Chudy said.

She explained the situation began with a lesson about the Holocaust, which schools in Texas are required to teach students about during its remembrance week.

During the lesson, students drew similarities between nationalism and propaganda. Deloretto-Chudy says this motivated them to question the Pledge of Allegiance, and they decided to protest it.

“So, I explained that all to my assistant principal, and she didn’t buy it. She didn’t believe that they would be able to make the decision on their own,” the former teacher said.

Deloretto-Chudy then made what she calls an “emotionally charged decision” to share her concerns about the meeting in a video on TikTok, which questioned why the school brought up this specific issue.

The next day, human resources told her she was being placed on administrative leave.

“And I said, ‘Why?’ And they said, ‘Because your TikTok has been causing a lot of disruptions at the district today,’” Deloretto-Chudy said.

While she was on leave, the Austin Independent School District investigated the matter, later telling her she would be terminated because the video violates the district’s social media policies.

The employee handbook states under a section about electronic communication and personal use that “employees will be held to the same professional standards in their public use of electronic communication as they are for any public conduct.”

The code also restricts employees from sharing confidential records, including educator evaluations, one of which can be seen in Deloretto-Chudy’s video.

The former teacher says she’s sharing her experience because she doesn’t think she violated any policies, and the entire situation has put her students at a disadvantage.

“The big thing that I want to come out of this is that I want to see a policy change. This policy specifically was incredibly vague and could be interpreted however the district wanted it to in order to fire teachers and to sweep things under the rug,” she said.

Some parents have claimed Deloretto-Chudy was an unfit teacher who is only speaking up now as a “stunt,” and they believed this would hurt the school’s reputation. Others said the district’s decision was “chaotic” and “disruptive,” and they felt the video didn’t put students at risk.

The decision comes while the school district is working to fill hundreds of vacancies. The district said in a statement it does not comment on personnel matters.