Teacher resigns after telling students Martin Luther King Jr. died of suicide

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

A North Carolina substitute teacher has resigned after coming under fire for telling 10-year-old black students their clothing “marked (them) for prison” and that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was not assassinated but died of suicide.

The teacher, who was identified by parents as Elizabeth A. Temple, was teaching a music class Friday at Rand Road Elementary School in Garner when she is alleged to have made the controversial remarks. According to the News & Observer in Raleigh, Wake County school officials began an internal investigation immediately after being notified by angry parents and "froze" the substitute teacher's status pending the outcome.

Lisa Luten, a school district spokeswoman, told the News & Observer the teacher told district officials Sunday that she wanted to be withdrawn from the district's substitute teacher database.

The Public Schools of North Carolina database shows an Elizabeth Anne Temple licensed to teach music in grades K-12. Her license is up to date.

The allegations against Temple went viral after parent Billy Byrd complained on social media about the way he said she treated his son, Nathan.

Nathan wore athletic clothes to school that day, Byrd told ABC11 in Raleigh.

"We always dress him with the best attire we can afford," Byrd told ABC11. "For her to say that him having athletic wear or attire on was going to put him in a position to go to prison, that really bothered me the most."

A photo Byrd took of Nathan in the outfit shows him wearing a black T-shirt with electric blue writing, black pants and electric blue sneakers.

Byrd told the News & Observer the outfit was Nathan's uniform for a youth basketball league. The boy, who had played ball the night before, was excited to show his classmates the uniform.

Nathan told his father the teacher told him and other male students of color that they were “marked for prison” because of what they were wearing.

"For her to assassinate his character because of what he was wearing is sickening," Byrd told the newspaper.

Byrd also addressed the comments made to his son on his Facebook page in a post that’s been shared nearly 600 times.

"To wear athletic apparel while being BLACK is obviously a MARK for long term imprisonment these days by racist radicals portraying to be godly and upright conservative Christians," Byrd said.

Nathan told reporters that he and his friends felt discriminated against but stood up to the teacher.

"She basically targeted me," Nathan told WRAL. "She said, 'If y'all keep doing what you're doing, you're going to go to jail.' So, I stood up in front of the class and I said, 'So, you're basically going to predict my future that hasn't even happened yet?'"

Temple, who Byrd said was supposed to show the class a video but grew upset when she couldn't get them to settle down, also told the children King's April 4, 1968, assassination was a "complete fabrication," Byrd told ABC11.

King died of suicide and the assassination was staged, Temple is alleged to have told the children.

"We had to draw the line there," Nathan told the News & Observer Tuesday. "All the things she was telling us were completely wrong. We had to tell her, 'Nothing you're saying is making any sense.'"

"What book is she reading? And obviously, it's not the right one," Byrd told ABC11. "For her to say this to a classroom full of kids, giving them that misinformed information, is just bogus. We can't afford to have anybody in the school system that is teaching this damaging rhetoric to any kid -- white or black."

Temple was also accused of telling the children that anyone who doesn't support President Donald Trump is not a real Christian and is going to hell, Byrd told the news station.

Byrd shared a screenshot on Facebook of a page belonging to an Elizabeth A. Temple, which indicated she was an avid Trump supporter. Her description of herself also included "John 3:16," a verse from the Bible.

At least one other parent corroborated Byrd’s allegations on social media.

"My daughter was in that class," Christopher Blackmon wrote on Twitter. "She came home absolutely enraged by it."

Temple’s Facebook page appeared to have been taken down as of Wednesday. She declined comment when contacted by ABC11.

Byrd told the news station he and his wife are proud of their son for standing for the truth.

"He had those necessary tools that he was equipped with prior to that situation taking place," Byrd said. "So for him to be able to stand up for truth and to correct that teacher when she made that blatant lie that Dr. King committed suicide, and say, 'No, that is inaccurate information, that did not happen,' that made me feel good as a father to know that he followed my instruction.

“For that, I am eternally proud and grateful.”

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