Teacher fired for asking students to write own obituaries

Teacher fired for asking students to write own obituaries


A psychology teacher in the US, Jeffrey Keene, has been fired after tasking all his students in a class assignment to write their own obituaries in advance.

In a swift reaction, Keene has said he has no regrets about the assignment, casting a spotlight on decisions made in state’s public education system.

“It wasn’t to scare them or make them feel like they were going to die, but just to help them understand what’s important in their lives and how they want to move forward with their lives and how they want to pursue things in their journey,” the dismissed psychology teacher, Jeffrey Keene, told NBC News.

Keene’s dismissal once again has cast a spotlight on the persistently bizarre decisions within the public education system of Florida, which has banned discussions of gender and sexual identity in classrooms but whose Republican extremist governor, Ron DeSantis, staunchly supports keeping the guns which help fuel school shootings across the country as accessible as possible.

According to NBC, Keene learned that his 11th- and 12th-grade students at Dr Phillips high school in the Orlando area would be rehearsing how to respond to a shooting attack at their campus during their first period on 4 April. That prompted him to ask his students to write their own biographical obituaries as classwork, reasoning that the assignment would cause them to reflect on their lives as they prepared to undergo the active shooter drill.

“This isn’t a way to upset you or anything like that,” Keene recalled telling his class of 35 students. He added: “If you can’t talk real to them, then what’s happening in this environment?”

Teacher fired for asking students to write own obituaries
Teacher fired for asking students to write own obituaries

Just one week earlier, an intruder shot and killed three nine-year-old students as well as three staffers at Covenant elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. Police shot and killed the intruder. The attack was one of more than 100 shootings at kindergarten through 12th-grade schools or during school-related activities in the US this year as of Saturday, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database resource.

The murders at Covenant also occurred during what as of Saturday was one of more than 140 mass shootings in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four victims are wounded or killed.

It later became apparent that someone was upset by Keene’s assignment. By second period that day, Keene said some of his students revealed to him that they had been interviewed by school officials about the obituaries. And in the middle of seventh period, he was told that he’d been fired from his job, which he had started in January.

The public school district which oversees Dr Phillips high has largely declined to discuss the case. A spokesperson for the district only told NBC in a statement that an employee responsible for “an inappropriate assignment about school violence” had been fired.