TEXAS CITY

A Texas City Independent School District teacher has been fired after inadvertently sending a profane text message complaining about a 13-year-old special-needs student to the boy’s mother.

Tiffany Lynn Elfstrom was on the phone with the Levi Fry Intermediate School teacher when she got two text messages from the teacher that were apparently meant for someone else.

In the messages, the teacher used expletives, referring to Elfstrom’s son, Jayden. The text, screenshots of which said: “This lil m----------r is crying like a baby for mommy because he wants to go home.” The second text said: “OMG I just want to omggggggg pull all my damn hair out.”

After receiving these messages, Elfstrom notified the school’s principal, she said.

“I am still heartbroken that she sent what she sent,” Elfstrom said. “I do have some concerns as far as with the school and I did express those concerns with the principal.”

Texas City Independent School District investigated the incident and the teacher no longer has a contract with the school district, spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said.

Justice has been served in Elfstrom’s mind, she said.

“I was very surprised with how quick they were able to handle the situation,” she said. “I am happy with the outcome. I’m not happy that she lost her job. But in this situation, I am very happy that she is no longer working with special-needs children.”

It’s hard to deal with special-needs students, but you have to have patience with children, Elfstrom said.

“I understand that he is autistic and it’s hard,” she said. “I understand that at the end of the day she might need someone to talk to, but through a text message and only to send it to me? Who does that?”

Elfstrom’s son will be shown respect and care when he returns, Tortorici said.

“We are going to provide the learning environment for him and our job always is to provide excellent staff,” she said. “The excellence wasn’t shown in this situation, which is why that employee is no longer with us.”

While she is comfortable sending her son back to school, she is fearful of situations like this happening again, Elfstrom said.

“I don’t want to go through it again,” she said. “It’s been hell.”

Connor Behrens: 409-683-5241; connor.behrens@galvnews.com.

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Before coming to work for The Daily News as a staff reporter, Connor worked for us as a freelance correspondent throughout 2017. He has written for other publications such as the Washington Post.

(14) comments

John long

You know, we ALL have bad days! I feel it's going way above and beyond, firing someone over a stupid comment. Probation and an apology should have been enough along with a talk with the Superintendent reminding the teacher of what a challenge this type of teaching career can be.

Doug Sivyer

Well stated Robert. I agree with you 100%. The teacher was obviously frustrated and vented via text. Clearly she did not intend to send the text to the child's mother. Nevertheless if challenging children provide her that much frustration she may be in the wrong field.

Robert Waggoner

First, I don't condone what the teacher did. What she did was totally unacceptable. I also have a grandson that's autistic and is a great grandson of Levi Frye. He also went to this school and the early results were unacceptable. Early on my grandson attacked by an unruly child and he got very little education. I also observed that the teacher was overwhelmed with the class size and the amount of children that really needed more than she was capable of giving. It took half of the school year to make any changes to alleviate the problems she and my grandson had encountered. This article screams with signals of the possible problems. Are the class sizes manageable? Do they have adequate trained aids to assist the teacher(s)? Are all the special kids being trained in the correct facility? I've personally seen what these teachers have to deal with on a daily basis. It's hard to imagine the stress they go through. That brings me to a question that is just as important as teaching these kids, how are we managing the teachers stress that they are dealing with daily? Lets not demonize the teachers that are do a great job daily. Someone in TCISD needs to look at the whole process of teaching the special kids to determine how well the teachers are managing their stress levels.

Toni Elies

I have a child that has learning issues and has been bullied by not only students but many teachers over the years. The effects of which we are constantly trying to clean up and have now just decided that there is nothing that the schools will do to correct these situations and we are now homeschooling. If a teacher does not have what it takes to be a positive role model for these children then they need to do the right thing and find another line of work.

George Croix

At the refinery and probably at many other businesses we had a tiered discipline system, with some infractions that could...could...result in immediate termination, but only occassionally did.
Quite a few people ended up on essentially a year of probation after deciding they really did want to stay employed there, and if during that year any other infraction occurred, they were supposed to be immediately fired...in actual practice, extenuating circumstances sometimes came into play and even that was replayed.
Several got re-assigned to different jobs/areas, or demoted.
A LOT depended on who 'caught' the person in the first place.
Some felt that the best cure for any problem was to get another employee.
Some felt that a huge investment in training and experience should not be so readily tossed aside.
As usual, the middle ground was the most full.
Lately, the trend in this country overall has been toward treating all problems or complaints as nails and taking a hammer to them.
Without knowing whether this was a repeat problem with this teacher, it seems to me based on just this article that immediate termination, rather than an apology to the child and mother, and some alternate disciplinary action of consequence taken by TCISD and then monitoring for any further issues, was a bit much.
I just worry that 'zero tolerance' is often a substitute for more appropriate response based on conditions at hand, or because of pressure applied, actual or anticipated.
I guess I'd say, raise your hand if you've never said something that could have gotten you in deep hot water but you were given the chance to atone for it. And then did so.
But, of course, I wasn't there......

Sheila Ewing

When I worked at UTMB years ago, there were certain behaviors that if an employee displayed, it was cause for "immediate termination"....fighting, use of drugs, insubordination, etc. In my opinion, this teachers choice of sending this text, no matter who it was intended for, was cause for her "immediate termination". She obviously couldn't handle what she thought she could.

Gary Scoggin

While I can sympathize with the frustration the teacher must have felt, there are lines that, once crossed, cannot be uncrossed. To me, this falls in that category. You can't set high standards for the students unless you set them for the faculty and administration.

TCISD was right in firing her.

George Croix

We all have a right to our opinions, and our differing experience(s) make for differences of opinion and action taken or proposed or supported. Good for that.
Question for my personal edification:
What about the reverse situation. If a student used the same language towards a teacher, should that student then be permanently removed from the school system, and required to go somewhere else?

Gary Scoggin

A student doing this should definitely be suspended but not permanently. The difference being that teachers are leaders in this environment and we should have higher expectations for leaders.

George Croix

Thanks for answering, Gary.
I worry when higher expectations becomes synonymous with zero tolerance.
Best way to get minimum effort out of anybody is to allow them no mistakes.
About half the people in the refinery would have been fired if they had never been given a chance to atone for something that made people mad or offended them but caused no physical harm or loss...
At a worse than usual UU3 fire scene, about an 8 on a stress 10 scale, many years ago I was very busy setting up a piece of apparatus when I was tapped on the shoulder and asked what the status of the situation was, I didn't even turn around but replied to whomever it was that I didn't have time to F with them right now...give me about 10 minutes to get the set up done, and then I'd be available. Well, about 10 minutes later, two people came walking up to me....you'd know them both well....one of whom was the Supt., and the other was the then-new Plant Manager, who looked me straight in the eye and asked if I had time to F with him now!! Never batting an eye, I said yes, and sorry about the language. HE then smiled big and apologized for interrupting at a bad time, shook my hand, and then asked his questions. Imagine that...an ability to analyze a situation rather than just react to it. If only all of our leaders had been of that caliber.....
EVERY time I ever saw that man for the time he was at the plant he asked if I had time to F with him, and we'd talk....and, no, I never had any negative comeback from it, despite my 'insubordination'....I even have a picture of him later handing me a service award, made possible because he didn't hand me a pink slip that day.
Gary, I gotta, say, I'm sure glad that Plant Manager wasn't you.....[wink]

Gary Scoggin

If it’s whom I’m thinking of, I knew that guy and admired him too. And he got a raw deal at the end.

Back to the matter at hand, this isn’t a question of zero tolerance for anything. It’s a matter of setting clear boundaries of behavior. For many offenses a lesser response is warranted. However, for me, this crossed a line. As part of the LMISD consolidation! Tcisd is trying to change a culture. You have to model accountability among your leaders to do it.

George Croix

Fair enough.
I'll respectfully disagree...for now.
I don't think one person's actions should define a whole culture, but there could be something to it this time considering the t-total mess made of old LMISD

Jose' Boix

Social media while loaded with many benefits, has consequences. It continues to baffle me how folks misuse this "tool" and then are surprised by the "results" (or consequences). Maybe we should be returning to the use of phone calls and paper written notes for educators - as well as many legislators/politicians...Just my thoughts!

George Croix

Looks like you're an antique like me, Jose'.
My daughter set me up with Facebook and Twitter accounts but I only...only...use them for an alternate source of emergency info or to occasionally look at for breaking news, and only 'friend' or 'follow' my immediate family - all 5 of them - and a few incidentals like TJ's breaking news folks and what POTUS is giving the MSM heck about....[beam]
I actually have a handwritten letter that my daughter sent me once...once....
It's in an SD box with my other rarities and valuables.....[beam][beam][beam]

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