Diane Tirado claimed she was fired for ignoring the school's "No Zero" policy, which states "no zeroes – lowest possible grade is 50%"

By Karen Mizoguchi
November 02, 2018 08:53 PM
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Courtesy Diane Tirado

A former middle school teacher is claiming she was fired from her teaching job for refusing to give credit where it’s not due.

Diane Tirado, formerly the U.S. history teacher at West Gate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie, Florida, said her final farewell to eighth-grade students on Sept. 14 with a message on the whiteboard that read: “Bye Kids, Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% for not handing anything in. [heart] Mrs. Tirado.”

In an interview with local news outlet WPTV, Tirado, who was in her first year at the school, claimed she was fired for ignoring the school’s “No Zero” policy, which is explained in the student and parent handbook as “no zeroes – lowest possible grade is 50%.”

Tirado said she learned about the “no zero” policy after some students did not complete an assignment she had given two weeks before the due date.

“What if they don’t turn anything in? ‘We give them a 50.’ I go, ‘Oh, we don’t.’ I’m so upset because we have a nation of kids that are expecting to get paid and live their life just for showing up and it’s not real,” she explained.

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Tirado also claimed the school principal sent her a letter but did not mention the reason for her termination due to her probationary period.

Kerry Padrick, the chief communications officer for St. Lucie Public Schools, told WPTV in a statement that Tirado was terminated “shortly after one month of classroom instruction.”

A school district spokesperson told WPTV that there is “no district or individual policy” prohibiting teachers from recording a zero for work not turned in. When asked about the specific wording in the school’s handbook regarding the “No Zero” policy, the spokesperson said some facilities discuss their own range of points.

In another statement to WPTV, the school district denied Tirado’s claims and said she was “released from her duties as an instructor because her performance was deemed sub-standard and her interactions with students, staff, and parents lacked professionalism and created a toxic culture on the school’s campus.”

The school district also claimed it fielded “numerous student and parent complaints as well as concerns from colleagues,” adding, “an investigation of possible physical abuse is underway.”

A spokesperson for the school district did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

“I deny all these charges and will pursue litigation and/or fight to clear my name and protect my character,” Tirado tells PEOPLE.

“I have been teaching in Florida schools approximately 17 years. Until this year, I have never had any of these types of accusations thrown at me. … I have had many principals and other administration dislike me and argue their opinion with me, but I have never been accused of causing a toxic environment and fired without warning or representation from my union until now,” she says.

“Some of the school systems in Florida and other states are committing fraud based upon the fraudulent grades they are giving to students. Their school grades are false, their district grades are false, and their graduation rates are false. The whole system is set up to be fraudulent, so they can get federal funding for their schools. Having schools compete by grading them is a failure to the children and the teachers. My goal is to create a movement of change!” Tirado concludes.

Since her termination, Tirado has spoken out about her incident on Facebook.

“The reason I took on this fight was because it was ridiculous. Teaching should not be this hard. Teachers teach content, children do the assignments to the best of their ability and teachers grade that work based on a grading scale that has been around a very long time,” she wrote on Sept. 23. “Teachers also provide numerous attempts to get the work collected so they can give a child a grade. By nature, most teachers are loving souls who want to see students succeed. We do above and beyond actual teaching to give them the support they need. Are we perfect? NO. We make mistakes like all other human beings, but I know teachers work their butts off to help children to be the best people they can be!”

Then on Oct. 20, Tirado expressed her disagreement with the country’s school systems.

“We are existing in a wildly volatile climate. Academia, like most fickle living things, needs a specific environment to grow. We’ve abandoned the concept of the whole child. We desperately need better socially adjusted students, armed with coping skills and an intrinsic purpose,” she wrote.

“The word ‘earned’ desperately needs to replace ‘given,’ ” she said.