ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Ethan Hooper, a 6th grade language arts teacher at Howard Middle School, is on administrative leave after involving students in a controversial set of TikTok videos.
The videos featured students in a variety of skits, including one satirizing alleged attempts at book bans by the state and another that features several students bowing down a trio of apparent Black students for Black History Month.
“I think reading about other cultures really helps with stereotypes that they might think,” said Jaida Jackson, one of Hooper’s students.
Jackson said Hooper helped them record the skits and content for the TikTok during lunch time.
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“We were definitely not forced. We all agreed,” Jackson said.
The school district issued this statement following the discovery of these videos:
“I am appalled at the behavior and judgment of the teacher who posted the inappropriate videos using his students as political props,” OCPS Superintendent Maria Vazquez said. “This is not free speech — it is the exploitation of our students for political purposes, and it will not be tolerated in our school district.”
Shauna Thompson, a former educator and Johnson’s mother, said her daughter and the other students looked forward to creating the content at school.
“Students are a lot more aware of what’s happening politically and locally within their communities, and I thought it was really great that they had an opportunity to be a part of something,” she said.
Thompson does not have an issue with the videos and said some other parents feel the same way. She said her daughter looked forward to creating content with Hooper and her peers.
Other parents, like CJ Johnson, said what Hooper did was inappropriate and a fireable offense.
“If one of the teachers was using my kid for political gain, that would upset me,” Johnson said. “What if I don’t believe in that, and, you know, that’s not what I’m teaching my kid.”
If Hooper is fired over the issue, Jackson said she would feel responsible.
Thompson said it makes her sad that her daughter feels guilty. She believes her daughter’s peers will also feel responsible if OCPS lets Hooper go.
“He’s an incredible teacher,” Thompson said.
News 6 reporter Treasure Roberts reached out to Hooper but did not hear back.
There is an open investigation into the issue by the Office of Professional Standards.
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