Rantz: Teacher investigated for ‘shaming’ unvaccinated kids on video, school tried to destroy evidence

Oct 3, 2021, 7:08 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2021, 11:39 am
A student recorded a Pierce County teacher bullying him and his classmates into getting the COVID v...
A student recorded a Pierce County teacher bullying him and his classmates into getting the COVID vaccine. She blamed her unvaccinated students for "killing people" by being unvaccinated.

A student recorded a Pierce County teacher bullying him and his classmates into getting the COVID vaccine. The teacher blamed her unvaccinated students for “killing people” by being unvaccinated.

Tanner is a 10th-grader at Puyallup High School. He says his biology teacher became upset that some students were improperly wearing their masks. It set her off on a rant against her unvaccinated students. She called unvaccinated students “selfish” and said they weren’t welcome at school. She accused her unvaccinated students of killing people by spreading variants of the virus, warning them that they could “literally kill everyone on the planet.”

That teacher is now on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into her conduct. But before the investigation took place, the school’s vice principal, who identifies as an abolitionist educator, tried to have the video evidence deleted.

MyNorthwest policy chooses not to name teachers unless they are charged with a crime, arrested, or fired. 

‘You are killing people’

Tanner says his teacher’s COVID vaccine harassment was triggered when she saw some students with masks that dropped below their noses. When she asked them to wear it correctly, he said they did. But then the teacher started to lecture her students about vaccines.

“She said one of her friend’s friends died from COVID and ‘if he had the vaccine, then he would have lived.’ Then I said that’s not true,” Tanner told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And then she went on that rant.”

That’s when Tanner started to discreetly record the incident on his phone from his desk. When he began to record, students were already pushing back against the teacher’s argument.

“You see, you have a choice not to get vaccines, but you are not allowed to come to public school,” she said. “Listen up. If you want to go to public school …”

A student interrupted, saying, “My body, my choice.”

“Yeah? Don’t come here,” the teacher responded.

Another student weighed in. She said that while she’s vaccinated, forcing the vaccine on people is inappropriate. The teacher disagreed.

“You want to know why it’s not your choice? Because you could create the variant that could kill millions of people. … It’s very likely,” the teacher said. “Do you know how many different variations come from a person who isn’t vaccinated? And then it’s passed and passed and passed, and it can make thousands and thousands of people sick. It is so selfish of people not to get the vaccine. You are killing people.”

‘You could literally kill everybody on the planet’

Later in the class, Tanner took more videos of his teacher ranting. While Tanner posted one to Facebook, two additional ones Tanner sent to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH were not publicly available. The school does not know they exist until now.

She repeatedly downplayed any side effects to the vaccines, indicating there’s “no reason” to skip the vaccine. She told students they were “hurting other people” by not getting vaccinated. And while she was pushing her students into a medical decision without their parent’s consent, students pushed back.

“So if you get the vaccine, I have to?” Tanner asks in the video.

“So if you don’t get the vaccine and you get sick, you can make a variant that will literally kill everybody on the planet,” the teacher tells students.

“You think I’m joking? I’m not,” she later added.

The argument did not impress the students. They noted nothing as dramatic has happened yet.

“We are entitled to our opinion,” one student said during the vaccine-shaming.

If not for Tanner’s mother, Tanya, he would have never recorded the incident. She encouraged him to document what was going on because of prior incidents where the teacher went on a “rant” about vaccines.

“So I had said, ‘hey, next time that happens, why don’t you video it? I just want to see it for myself,'” Tanya told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And so he did, and he sent it to me, and I turned around and went directly to the school, and I went in and asked to talk to an administrator.”

The meeting didn’t go as Tanya planned.

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The administrator ‘refused to even engage in a conversation’

When Tanya went into the school to complain, she wanted to feel heard. She was concerned for the well-being of her son and his classmates.

But she says after meeting with assistant principal Cassie Ridenour, she didn’t feel confident the school would do anything.

“I was upset. I think that it’s scary what this teacher is saying to the kids,” Tanya said. “It’s already divided. I mean, students are divided. People, in general, are divided, and I just thought putting this out there and actually shaming them, and I thought it was somewhat bullying. And Mrs. Ridenour refused to even engage in a conversation.”

Instead, Tanya says Ridenour kept saying they were opening an investigation into the conduct, and she welcomed Tanner to submit a witness statement. Finally, after getting what Tanya thought were “scripted responses” from the assistant principal, she revealed that Tanner recorded a portion of the incident so he wouldn’t have to provide a witness statement.

Ridenour did not review the video evidence. Tanya says Ridenour demanded she delete the video because Tanner didn’t have permission to record. Tanya ended the conversation soon after denying that request. She didn’t trust anything would come of her complaint.

Parents with experience with Puyallup High School have reached out to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to express concerns about the administration getting too political. Ridenour’s name has come up multiple times.

The assistant principal, who confusingly lists her personal pronouns as “she/her/they/them,” identifies as an “Abolitionist Education in Training.” Her email signature says she’s “Striving to Dismantle Systems of Oppression,” which links to the Abolitionist Teaching Network, a progressive activist organization.

Paid administrative leave

While the Puyallup School District said it was investigating the conduct, it escalated after the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH became involved. After asking the district for comment, Tanner says the school started pulling students from class to ask them what happened.

“It’s very weird — people that were in that class kept getting pulled out. And then I got pulled out to write a witness form,” he explained.

A spokesperson for the Puyallup School District confirmed that they “are in the process of finding out what occurred in class, in addition to what was captured in the 2-minute video recording.”

Tanner says there’s no additional context that would change the substance of his video.

“With regards to your inquiry, as soon as we became aware of the incident we took immediate steps to launch an investigation with staff and students. The teacher is currently on paid leave,” the spokesperson told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The spokesperson also confirmed that Ridenour asked Tanya to delete the video evidence.

“The request was made simply because it was an inappropriate use of technology during class time that was recorded without permission,” she said.

This timeline is troubling.

Tanner says the school asked to review the video on Wednesday, Sept. 29. This was after I asked for a comment where I referenced the video recording. But Tanya met with Ridenour on Monday, Sept. 27. That means the abolitionist educator in training demanded Tanya delete the video evidence two days before the school sought it during the investigation.

“The request could have been handled differently, but it was made in an effort to minimize student disruption,” the spokesperson admitted. She says there were multiple copies of the video available.

Tanner also says a classmate was not discreet while recording the incident on Snapchat. The teacher, he says, confronted the student and made him stop. And late last week, students were told via the intercom that filming teachers is “harassment” and prohibited. When asked to provide the legal guidance used to call filming inside a public school “harassment,” the spokesperson did not respond.

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What does a resolution look like?

While the teacher is out on paid leave, Tanner and Tanya just want the ranting to stop so the class can get back to normal. Neither wants to see the teacher fired.

“I don’t want my kids bullied over a decision that I made for them right now. I don’t want them told that they are killing people, that they are so, so selfish,” Tanya said.

She worries this kind of rhetoric from the teacher will lead to tension between students. And does Tanner fear the teacher will retaliate against him for this investigation?

“I think once it’s settled, she’ll do the right thing,” Tanner said.

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Rantz: Teacher investigated for ‘shaming’ unvaccinated kids on video, school tried to destroy evidence