School principal throws 'mock funeral' with 'dead' baby to motivate teachers: 'Something is wrong with you'

The principal of Getwell Elementary School in Memphis hosted a “funeral,” complete with a doll in a mock casket, to motivate teachers. (Photo: Fox 13)

A school principal organized a pseudo-funeral in what some saw as a misguided attempt to motivate teachers, causing some educators who had suffered childbirth problems to flee the room.

The principal of Getwell Elementary School in Memphis reportedly wanted to motivate teachers to work harder after 2015 data by Public School Review showed the school scored in the bottom 50 percent for math and reading in the state, according to Fox 13, which broke the story.

The principal, Tina Smith, decided that a meeting with a funeral motif would show teachers they were “burying” the data and would demonstrate the wasted potential of students. At the Friday meeting, while a song played with the lyric “Children are our future,” teachers were told to act as though they were in mourning, reported Fox 13.

The “funeral” included a memorial card to “Madam 2 to 3 years behind.” (Screenshot: Fox 13)

There was a tiny “casket” in the middle of the room — with a “dead” baby doll inside — surrounded by flowers and pamphlets that read, “In loving memory of Madam 2 to 3 years behind.”

Keith Williams, the interim director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, told Fox 13 that the meeting was offensive. “She has insulted those people. That is an insult — to invite me back to school the first day for a funeral,” Williams said. “Some of the teachers who had recently had challenges with childbirth were overwhelmed and just left the room. Some of them are off today because of it.”

Williams did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

The scene of the mock funeral at Getwell Elementary School. (Screenshot: Fox 13)

A representative of Shelby County Schools tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “The principal planned a variety of activities during in-service last week aimed to renew the focus and commitment of staff members in the new year. One activity involved a mock funeral, which was designed as a symbolic act to eliminate negativity and excuses associated with previous years of poor academic performance. Discussions focused on positive strategies and expectations for helping all students be successful. However, after speaking with a few concerned staff members, the principal acknowledged how the activity could be seen as insensitive and personally apologized to the entire staff.”

Miska Bibbs, a member of the Shelby County School Board, sent an email to Fox 13 that said: “Unfortunately, something that was supposed to be used as a lighthearted demonstration was not received in the manner it was intended. I do not think that whoever planned the event was mindful of the fact that death and anything involving children being portrayed in a hurtful manner is acceptable. I understand the response of those who were offended. I am aware that SCS administration has talked to all involved. I hope that this type of event will not be used as a demonstration again.”

However, Williams expressed his disbelief that something like this could happen in the first place. “If you think, by any stretch of the imagination, that burying a child in the presence of mostly women is symbolic of improving instruction,” he told Fox 13, “something is wrong with you.”

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