In the wake of St. Louis Public Schools’ termination last month of Trey Porter, Roosevelt High School’s football coach and athletic director, there were more questions than answers. There was also hope — on the part of Porter’s students, parents and others — that Porter might be reinstated, especially after an Oct. 21 student-led walkout in support of him.
But at the latest meeting of the school board, Porter was notified that the board is standing by the district’s decision.
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Porter joined host Sarah Fenske to share his perspective on the events of recent days. Porter has said all along that the firing had to do with violating the district’s social media policies, and that his communication with players happened in the context of a strikingly violent summer for many youth in the city.
In conversation with Fenske, Porter delved further into his understanding of what led to his dismissal.
He explained why he found social media connections to be important with some students and why being terminated for those connections was "a hard pill to swallow based on the fact that [over] the summer, 18 kids [were] killed in the city of St. Louis."
"Constant contact is something that I basically require from my players throughout all that turmoil," Porter said. "And [for instance] a kid I [work with] now, who lives with his grandmother, he doesn't have a cellphone. But she has internet at her house. So, literally, I had to Facebook message him yesterday, because a college coach is in town that's recruiting him."
The talk show team also reached out to SLPS officials for comment, and the district's spokesperson provided a statement that was read on air: "We cannot comment on any specific personnel matter. However, our social media policies, and any actions taken pursuant to those policies, are consistent and in compliance with Missouri law, and designed to protect the safety and security of our students."
St. Louis Public Radio reached out to listeners via social media and a recent e-newsletter to get their takes on the role of social media as a communication tool between educators and students.
Rece Schurte, who has a teenage daughter, said on Instagram that she would be "very surprised to see my child and a teacher communicating via social media. For me, it is very inappropriate. Any communication should go through myself or her dad."
A manager of the Jefferson County Library's teen Instagram account posted a response saying that "public library staff and I do communicate with teen patrons through Instagram. Currently there are not written rules specific to our Instagram communications. Instead I follow general guidelines for talking with patrons and privacy."
Emily Cinciripini wrote: "With today's lack of mental health services available to students, sometimes a teacher is the only person they have to talk to. If a child needed help and used social media to reach out to a teacher whom they felt comfortable talking to, how could that be a bad thing? I'm a teacher and have been that person for several students who were struggling."
Another listener, Margie Louks, wrote: "My first instinct is to say no [that students and teachers shouldn't talk on social media]. You hear so much abuse on social media. But this is the way our children and grandchildren communicate, so I think this is the way to go about it."
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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