A high-ranking official with the Georgia Department of Education was fired Tuesday for social media posts that many have labeled racist and otherwise offensive.
Jeremy Spencer was associate state superintendent of virtual instruction. He posted and otherwise displayed controversial images and comments on his Facebook page that prompted a story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which appeared online Monday afternoon.
Spencer posted, “If I read one more thing about the Finland educational system ... not everybody in the US public schools are WHITE!” A comment from someone else appeared on his page that showed a photo of a lynching victim with the words, “One way to solve the problem; Impeach and ...”
Other comments and images disparaged Muslims and the LGBT community. Some were direct posts from Spencer while others he allowed to be displayed on his page.
“Well, anytime you have those kind of situations, that’s unfortunate, but it sounds like it’s been remedied,” Gov. Nathan Deal said.
“I think we try to train people to be sensitive and not to use the social media to say things that are inappropriate. So always, I think, when you have events like this, it's an opportunity to instruct from it and for others to learn from it,” Deal said when asked about how to prevent these sort of instances in the future.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods issued a statement Tuesday morning signaling Spencer’s dismissal:
"Like most people, I was disheartened and disgusted to see the posts made by Mr. Spencer on his Facebook page. These posts in no way reflect my opinions, or those of the Department of Education. As of this morning, Mr. Spencer is no longer an employee of the Department of Education. My job, and the job of all employees at the Department of Education, is to look out for the educational well-being of all of Georgia's 1.7 million students, and more than 100,000 teachers and educators.”
Before the news that Spencer had been fired, State Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta called for his dismissal on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
Bryan Long, executive director of the ethics watchdog group Better Georgia, spoke about Spencer’s posts on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress." He applauded the choice to fire Spencer and says an investigation into the department’s culture is necessary.
Long also noted that Jeremy Spencer is the twin brother of state Rep. Jason Spencer of Woodbine. Long said, “Jeremy Spencer was a political appointment.”
He added, “I think there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered about how Richard Woods hired his staff.”
Woods said he hopes in the days and months to come, people will see the integrity the department expects of anyone working in education.
“In the age of social media, we have to be careful of what we put out there because it does set an example, it does send a message, and we want to make sure that what we’re talking about is the children and focusing on them,” Woods said.
Woods said the department will be reviewing its policies regarding social media and professional standards.
Update: Rep. Jason Spencer has released a statement about his brother's firing. You can read it below.
I do not stand in judgment for the reasons State Superintendent Woods dismissed my brother from his position inside the DOE. Mr. Woods has to lead the DOE for the entire state of Georgia. My brother’s unfortunate postings on social media, albeit some taken out of context through the prism of political correctness, provoked comments from others who posted incendiary images. He failed to properly moderate his page.
I do know my brother’s heart, and I do believe he will gain a tremendous amount of wisdom from this uncomfortable experience and grow as a person in the future. He is my brother, and I will help him on this journey to greater wisdom.
While it will be easy for others to invoke guilt by association, rest assured I will continue to represent all of my constituents like I have demonstrated in the past in a color blind manner.