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College probes instructor’s Facebook post

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SMITHFIELD — Johnston Community College is investigating an instructor over her Facebook post expressing concern over a student in her class wearing a Donald Trump campaign T-shirt.

Tammy Bird chairs JCC’s English, humanities and foreign language department. She’s been a department chair at JCC since May 2018. Bird earned a doctorate in education from North Carolina State University and a master’s in literature from Old Dominion University.

Bird is also the author of “Sandman,” a psychological thriller, and has co-authored several other books.

The controversy began on Sept. 12 when Bird posted a photo of a student wearing a Trump shirt on her Facebook page.

A screen capture of the Facebook post indicates Bird wrote that she felt threatened by the T-shirt, although she noted the student was well behaved.

“This semester I feel vulnerable,” wrote Bird, who is a lesbian. “I talk less about who I am. I do not talk about my wife in class. It is a choice I made in the midst of all the hate and destruction of people who are not white and/or straight.”

The Facebook post, which Bird has since removed, had the student’s face partially obscured by a graphic showing a shocked-face emoji forming the “O” in “OMG.” The phrase “Keep America Great?” was digitally added to the image along with an arrow pointing at the student’s shirt. A frame around the image included the caption “Hardest teaching day to date.”

A tipster using an alias sent a screen capture of the Facebook post to the Johnstonian News on Sept. 16.

Bird did not respond to the Johnstonian News’ requests to comment on the complaint about her Facebook post.

JCC President David Johnson said he is familiar with the situation.

“I am fully aware of the incident you indicate. The issue is a personnel matter and under investigation,” said Johnson. “ Therefore, I am declining to make a comment at this time.”