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Fight to reinstate Greece Olympia teacher ends

Greece, N.Y. -- The fight to reinstate a Greece Olympia High School teacher has ended.

Parents and students who hoped their support would be enough to urge the school board to reject Sharon Duffys resignation left Tuesdays meeting disappointed.

I feel like the board didnt really want to hear what we had to say and that their minds are already made up, said Kathy Natkin, whose daughter was one of Duffys students.

Despite a petition with more than 400 signatures and emotional pleas from students, the school board accepted Duffys resignation in an 8-1 vote.

Duffy, an American sign language teacher, resigned after a photo posted to Facebook showed a crude phrase written on the whiteboard in her classroom and she was accused of teaching students inappropriate language.

She is the best teacher we ever had and its a complete loss to everybody in the community that she is no longer teaching, Jessica Mallett said.

Mallett, a former student at the high school, said Duffy inspired her to go to college to become a teacher.

When youre learning a language you have to learn all of it, you have to learn the good bad and the ugly, Mallett said. We know these words in English, so when youre learning a language to be fluent in, why not learn it in that language as well?

According to students, the phrase was written on the board because a student asked Duffy how to sign it as part of a game the students played as a class.

Danielle Palmgreen said Duffy is the reason her son wants to be an interpreter.

Thats something that they need to learn," Palmgreen said. "They need to differentiate swear words from regular words and how to say them without offending a deaf person."

In a language where a slight hand movement can turn hello into a curse word, parents at the meeting argued their kids should learn all of the words they know how to say.

Were all old enough to hear those words, see those words, said Paul Palmgreen, a student in Duffys class the day the photo was taken. It was just a game, a learning experience for all the kids and thats it.

It happened at the beginning of the school year and another student in the class snapped a picture on her phone. Months later, that students mother uploaded the photo to Facebook.

Posted to social media sites Feb. 27, the photo gained a lot of attention. The following Monday, Duffy resigned.

While Duffy has yet to comment publicly, her supporters insist the district forced her to resign.

Sharon did the resignation only because she had no choice, Natkin said. 

Since Duffys resignation, substitute teachers are covering her classed. 

Were losing out on education now for two weeks, Paul Palmgreen said after the board announced its decision.

Because the substitutes dont know sign language, Palmgreen said ASL is not being taught and many kids now sleep during the class.

Weve done nothing but sit our heads down and cry," he said. "Just nothing happens.

A letter sent home to parents said to district is looking at a few different candidates to replace Duffy.

At the podium, one student closed the public comments with this statement.

We will continue to support Duffy until her reputation is clean of the mud youve dragged it through," he said. "You may have won this battle, but I assure you, we the students will keep fighting this war.

The school board said it could not comment or take questions on the matter because its a personnel issue.

 
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