NEWARK -- On her Twitter feed, a Newark Memorial High School teacher described in explicit terms her desires for her students. She wanted to pour coffee on them. She wanted to stab them. Some of them, she said, "make my trigger finger itchy."
Alerted by one of her colleagues to the tweets -- which are laced with profanity and racist remarks -- the district disciplined teacher Krista Hodges with a written reprimand, and she continues to teach. Hodges has apologized, saying she meant none of it seriously. But some in the school community are stunned by the turn of events, given the alarming sentiments the teacher expressed.
In an interview with this newspaper, Hodges conceded she handled herself "unprofessionally." But, she said, "Everyone knows I'm one of the most liked teachers on campus. And that's because I form meaningful and long-lasting relationships with my students."
But the school's athletics booster club president, Stacy Kelly, whose children graduated from Newark Memorial, said the tweets are "not OK."
"If you feel that bad about your job and your students, maybe you should find a different career," Kelly said.
Tim Erwin, interim superintendent of Newark Unified School District, confirmed there was an investigation into Hodges' online messages. Erwin would not detail the discipline, but Hodges confirmed she received a written reprimand.
"The only thing I can say is we were made aware of it, and we followed our policies and procedures and that investigation has concluded," Erwin said. "I cannot get into any specifics as to any steps that were taken due to the fact that it's a personnel matter."
He added that he consulted California education law, school board policy and the teacher's union contract to guide him in deciding discipline for Hodges.
When told about the tweets, school board President Nancy Thomas said, "I'm speechless. Oh dear."
She said Erwin told her about the disciplinary measures Monday, nearly two months after the fact,ï»¿ but did not tell her what the tweets said. Thomas declined to comment on whether the written reprimand was appropriate, saying the school board lets administrators handle personnel issues, unless they come before the board.
"But I would go so far as to say we take very seriously the safety of our children," Thomas said.
Hodges said she deleted her account and is not posting messages on Twitter or other social media. She said a colleague copied the offensive tweets and brought them to her principal. The anonymous colleague also provided the tweets to this newspaper, and Hodges confirmed they are hers.
In an email, Hodges said she "deeply regrets" the messages and continued: "I never expected anyone would take me seriously. If I had thought for one moment that someone would read anything I said on Twitter and take me seriously, you'd better believe I would have been much more careful with what I've said."
In a subsequent telephone interview Hodges said she "would never touch a student" and that the tweets probably came out of frustration with troubled high school students who often bring outside problems in to the classroom.
One psychologist said that people who express threatening thoughts through social media aren't necessarily inclined toward violence.
"When people go online, it doesn't feel like the real world; it's almost an extension of their imagination where they can say almost anything they want," said John Suler, a professor and specialist in cyberpsychology at Rider University in New Jersey.
"It's a drama in your head that plays out online, and people lose the sense of perspective that there are actually real people listening to this and watching what I am saying."
Chris De Benedetti contributed to this report. Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley.