ORANGE - A grade-school teacher in Orange was suspended Friday for allegedly having her students write "get well" letters to a sick inmate who was convicted of killing a police officer, outraging parents.
Marylin Zuniga allegedly had third-graders at Forest Street Elementary School write letters that were delivered to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
She also allegedly tweeted about the assignment. A Twitter account that bears the teacher's name, @Marylin_Zuniga, is no longer available on Twitter.
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Orange School Superintendent Ronald Lee said in a statement released Friday that school administrators "vehemently deny" any knowledge of Zuniga's assignment. Lee said preliminary inquiries found that Zuniga didn't seek approval or notify parents.
Abu-Jamal is serving a life sentence for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal was hospitalized last month for what family members described as complications from diabetes. A supporter and history professor at Baruch College delivered the students' letters to Abu-Jamal.
Zuniga allegedly posted on her Facebook page that Abu-Jamal "chuckled as he read excerpts from these touching letters."
The former president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police said the children were being "indoctrinated."
Retired police officer Steve Rogers was bothered by Zuniga's alleged actions.
Other people weren't upset. "That doesn't bother me because I believe that when they go off to prison, they go off to be rehabilitated," said Joyce Thompson, of East Orange.
The school district is closed for the spring break, but the superintendent said a full investigation would begin when classes resume Monday. Zuniga will remain suspended until the investigation is completed. Additional action could be taken by the school board once the investigation is finished.
Zuniga couldn't be reached for comment.