UPDATE: Teacher fired for making kids write letters to cop killer

Mumia Abu-Jamal (left), and Marilyn Zuniga (right)

UPDATE (5/14): Orange County school board officials voted Wednesday (May 13) to terminate Marilyn Zuniga's employment as part of a larger personnel restructuring agenda. By including Zuniga's termination in a larger personnel agenda plan, the school board did not immediately reveal the firing to Zuniga's supporters, who attended the meeting where her employment was discussed.

ORIGINAL STORY: A New Jersey elementary teacher has been suspended after she had her students write "get well" letters of encouragement to a convicted cop killer. According to NJ.com, Marilyn Zuniga, a third grade teacher at Forest Street Elementary School in the city of Orange, gave her students an assignment of writing a "get well" letter to Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.

A number of left wing activists (including actor Ed Asner) have been campaigning for Abu-Jamal's release from prison for years, even though the case against him was considered strong. Sometime in early April, Zuniga told her students to write Abu-Jamal "get well" letters after his health deteriorated from diabetes complications. Afterward, Zuniga tweeted "Just dropped off these letters to comrade Johanna Fernandez. My 3rd graders wrote to Mumia to lift up his spirits as he is ill. #freemumia" Zuniga later deactivated her Twitter account.

Johanna Fernandez is a professor at Baruch College in New York City, where she teaches in the Departments of History and of Black and Latino Studies. She is also a member of "Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal" and "The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home," which both advocate for his innocence. Fernandez posted on her Facebook that she personally delivered the letters Zuniga gave her to Abu-Jamal.

After school officials learned of the assignment through local media, they suspended Zuniga pending an investigation. "The school's principal and district administrators vehemently deny that it had any knowledge of the assignment and preliminary inquiries find that no approval was ever sought nor were parents notified about this unauthorized activity," Orange Public Schools said in a statement. "The incident reported is in no way condoned nor does it reflect curriculum, program or activities approved by the district."

According to Rich Costello of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, Abu-Jamal "shot [Faulkner] in the back, and then as the officer lay slumped against a wall helpless, he leaned over and shot him between the eyes."

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