Teacher: Students asked about writing to Mumia Abu-Jamal
Marylin Zuniga apologized for publicizing the effort online
ORANGE, N.J. — A suspended New Jersey teacher said her third-grade class asked about writing "get well" letters to a sick inmate convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer, but Marylin Zuniga apologized for publicizing the effort online.
Zuniga spoke publicly before the Orange school board on Tuesday night, days after she was suspended with pay after school officials learned about the letters.
The letters were delivered to Mumia Abu-Jamal in prison following his hospitalization last month for what his family said was treatment for complications from diabetes. The former Black Panther is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder.
Zuniga said she had assigned her class in February to consider the theme of Abu-Jamal's quote: "So long as one just person is silenced, there is no justice."
"In April, I mentioned to my students that Mumia was very ill and they told me they would like to write 'get well' letters to Mumia," Zuniga said.
She told the board she made a mistake and had learned from it. She said she was prepared to resign to avoid consequences to her career if the panel decides to fire her.
The board met in closed session, before deciding to table to issue.
School board attorney Melvin Randall told NJ.com he had misspoke when he had said during the meeting that a decision had been made.
"No decision had been made," Randall said. "It was a recommendation." But Randall declined to say what that recommendation was.