LONGMONT, Colo. -- An art teacher from Skyline High School is facing scrutiny by the St. Vrain Valley School District after posting a picture of a student on her Instagram account.
The photo shows Skyline Freshman Phoenix Bowen walking out of a classroom where teacher Traci Gauthier was substituting for a day. In Gauthier’s posting she wrote, “STEM kids are trying too hard. I don’t know him, but I hate him.” Adding the hashtags, “#pothead, #STEM, #wannabecool, #dorkywhiteboy.”
“To put it on social media where everyone in the world sees it; If this was on the other shoe [sic] and a student did this, it would be blown up in a different way,” said Phoenix’s father, Erich Bowen.
Phoenix told FOX31 Denver that he had no idea the photo about him was posed to Gauthier’s social media page until a friend told him. “Out all the people I expected to post something about a student, a teacher would not be one of them,” said Phoenix.
What upset him was the hashtag accusing him of being a pothead. “It’s false,” he said to FOX31 Denver Investigative Reporter Tak Landrock.
Phoenix said the teacher was probably referring to his backpack with a logo of an energy drink. The logo contains a hemp leaf because the product is made with hemp oil. The makers of CannaEnergy said the drink doesn’t contain THC, the active ingredient needed for someone to get high.
“People automatically see the hemp leaf and assume it is a pot leaf and pot is stoner and that’s not what it’s about,” said Phoenix.
Phoenix responded to the teacher’s Instagram post saying, “You can’t hate me, you don’t know me.” Moments later Gauthier responded, “I know I don’t know you-but I can hate anyone I’d like.” Adding hashtags, “#Nobig, #Dontbesad and #MeanArtTeacher.
Rosalind Wiseman, a nationally known expert on teen bullying and social media, said the teacher violated her responsibility to create a safe environment for kids. “Her belief that she could do this to him and get away with it, is really overall the thing that makes me angry.”
Wiseman said she is seeing more and more adults acting aggressively toward kids in online posts. “We are supposed to be adults and we are not supposed to say things that come to our minds right away.”
We showed Wiseman the Instagram post and the teacher’s response. Wiseman said the student acted more responsibly than the teacher. “The great irony is that adults are always lecturing kids on how to behave online and what we are seeing adults who are acting less maturely than young people.”
Bowen said he’s had several conversations with the principal of Skyline. He said the district is still investigating.
FOX31 Denver asked the St. Vrain Valley School District about the post and we were told it can’t comment because it is a personnel issue. We also asked for a copy of the school district’s social media policy for teachers and were told there isn’t one. We were told it has a general policy for teachers to be on their best behavior.
Other school districts in the Denver metro area do have some type of basic social media policy for employees saying, “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t hang up in your classroom.”
Bowen worries about his son, who he describes as normally outgoing, “I already can see a difference in Phoenix’s attitude and the way he is handling himself.”
Bowen has asked the teacher be fired from her job. “This is bullying. This is a lot of lines crossed.”
FOX31 Denver left several voice mails on Gauthier’s cell phone number and we stopped by her house seeking comment on this story. None of our messages were returned and no one answered at her Broomfield home.
The St. Vrain School District said Thursday night she was no longer employed by them.