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Cabell school system investigating teacher’s anti-Muslim tweets

A Huntington High School social studies teacher who has posted numerous hateful views on Twitter deleted her account amid a school investigation of her social media use on Monday.

People had been calling the school system about Mary Durstein’s Twitter posts on Monday morning.

Many posts were Islamophobic. Durstein, who sometimes tweeted at students, retweeted someone saying “we must name our enemy,” referring to Muslims, who make up about a quarter of the world’s population.

She tweeted a meme that called President Barack Obama, a Christian, a “Muslim d-----bag.” She used other profanity to describe Obama in numerous tweets.

The tweets, interspersed between inspirational quotes and support for President-elect Donald Trump, had been going on for some time.

In July of 2015, she tweeted at @ericbolling: “#cashinIN #WakeUpAmerica #viewcrew Who cares if we offend Muslims at least they keep their heads on tact. They’re the enemy.” At 10:48 p.m. Sunday night, she responded to that tweet, “I’m flattered that a tweet from July 2015 is getting a lot of attention this evening,” followed by four smiley faces.

The posts were also racist at times. Someone tweeted about the group of people, who are black, accused of beating up a white man with disabilities in Chicago, and she said “this could have been Obama’s children,” an apparent reference to a statement the president made after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. She also retweeted someone saying Black Lives Matter should be considered a terrorist group.

Huntington High School has more than 200 black students, according to the West Virginia Department of Education, and Cabell County has “quite a few Muslim students,” according to a spokesman.

Durstein also made her Twitter account private, and then deleted it Monday. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Jedd Flowers, a spokesman for Cabell schools, confirmed that the Twitter account belonged to the teacher. He had said Monday morning that school officials were checking into the matter. By Monday afternoon, he said Durstein had been sent home for the day with pay and school officials had launched a formal investigation. She wasn’t placed on leave, and Flowers said she hadn’t yet been given instructions on whether to come to school Tuesday.

School officials anticipated that she would soon meet with Superintendent William Smith, possibly with a union representative.

“She has a right to be heard,” Flowers said.

In response to an animation of a swastika in front of President-elect Donald Trump’s face, Durstein, who sometimes tweeted at students, said “awesome! Do you care if I share with my alt right friends? (smiley face)” Alt-right is a phrase to describe white supremacy.

She said that there would be “no more political correctness after 1/20 can’t wait finally liberated,” followed by five big smile emojis.

Her comments belittled sexual assault. She said “I would prefer a groper over a Liar any day.”

Karima Neghmouche, who is Muslim and graduated from Huntington High School in 2013, brought attention to the tweets. More than 100 people retweeted screenshots of four tweets that she posted on Sunday.

Karima said before she decided to draw attention to the account, she thought about the increase in hate-based incidents toward Muslims since the election, and the power and authority that teachers have.

“Of course it offended me,” she said. “[But] it’s more I’m genuinely worried about the kids sitting in her class that might be wearing a hijab or having an accent that are already going through so much.”

Cabell schools don’t have a social media policy but they do have a code of conduct policy, Flowers said.

“We asked her to take [her account] down while we’re investigating the situation, but we have already archived all the tweets,” he said Monday afternoon.

Smith, the superintendent, said that the code enumerates “a certain expectation of professionalism.”

“That’s the kind of expectation I would hold any teacher to,” he said.

The Cabell County employee code of conduct states that all Cabell County professional employees shall “contribute, cooperate, and participate in creating an environment in which all employee/students are accepted and are provided the opportunity to achieve at the highest levels in all areas of development,” “maintain a safe and healthy environment, free from harassment, intimidation, bullying, substance abuse, and/or violence, and free from bias and discrimination,” “create a culture of caring through understanding and support,” and “demonstrate responsible citizenship by maintaining a high standard of conduct, self-control, and moral/ethical behavior.”

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5163, Facebook.com/erinbeckwv, or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

FUNERALS FOR THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2019

Anderson, Robert - 1 p.m. Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Atkins Jr., Archie - 11 a.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Burdette, Davy - 8 p.m., Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Edwards, Dianna - 2 p.m., Montgomery Memorial Park, London.

Loving, Nancy - 1 p.m., Groves Creek Community Church, Harrison.

Meadows, James - 2 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Miller, Ruth - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Smith, Carl - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Thornton, Sammie - 1 p.m., Gatens - Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Vance, Zenda - 11 a.m., Montgomery Memorial Park, London.

Whitson, Grady - 7 p.m., Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant.

Williams, Mary - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.