Last month, 22-year-old Erica Resnick shared a post on Facebook responding to recently passed laws that have limited abortion rights in several states. Men, she wrote, should avoid opining until they themselves have the ability to bear children.
Steven Babice, 60, who just a few years ago taught Resnick social studies at Everglades High in Miramar, replied with an exceedingly inappropriate comment. "When an irresponsible whore learns that a baby’s life has as much value as hers then maybe she’d use her mouth instead of her polluted vagina. Ignorant," he wrote.
Resnick (who also goes by the name Erica Lauren) was incensed. Others reposted the comment and tagged the school's principal, Haleh Darbar. Babice was then asked why he had posted the comment. According to his personnel file, he responded, “I was having a cry session over my mother's death... and I was having an emotional episode. Being in the state of mind I was in at the time, I felt the need to comment that I believe life starts at conception and more people should value life."
Babice also declined to comment. Interestingly, though, the Broward chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has taken up the teacher’s cause. Barry Butin, who says he represents Babice on behalf of the ACLU, says use of the terms "whore" and "polluted vagina" was "pure political speech" because they were discussing abortion. It was not a case of "obscenity" or "defamation."
"Mr. Babice was exercising his First Amendment right when he made that comment to the woman who is not even a student,” Butin says. “He has since taken down his Facebook and does not look at it anymore. He has served for 20 years with no issues. He was just having a bad day."
But the lawyer was unaware of several reports in Babice's personnel file with Broward County Public Schools. Before teaching at Everglades High, Babice worked at Charles W. Flanagan High in Pembroke Pines. A memo dated March 24, 1997, from former Flanagan principal Sara B. Rogers warned Babice to stop making inappropriate comments in class. It noted only that students had made allegations, but it provided no details.
"This correspondence is to serve as a warning to you to refrain from engaging students in conversation that may be perceived as... having sexually suggestive connotation," Rogers' memo stated. "This behavior is... unacceptable."
Babice moved to Everglades High in 2004. Three years later, an anonymous tip was sent to Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit dedicated to solving and preventing crime, according to the personnel file. It claimed Babice was doing drugs and having sex with a student who had graduated two years earlier. Broward Schools investigator Gary Rowe confronted Babice, who denied the claim, and then concluded a memo thusly: “At this time there is no further information.” There is no evidence in the file that Rowe conducted any further investigation. The case was closed after then-principal Paul Fetscher said he would monitor Babice.
The teacher has received no serious disciplinary action for his alleged behavior, according to his personnel file. Broward Schools officials have continued to recommend him for reappointment as a teacher each year for more than 20 years. Butin, Babice's attorney, was unaware Resnick had been a student of Babice's. He said he would discuss the subject with his client.
Resnick says she has not sought any legal action against Babice and has not reported anything directly to the school board. She has blocked Babice on Facebook, and his comment on her post was removed. Read the entire text of the incident report for Babice's Facebook comment, as well as his explanation and the principal's directives, below.
Updated: After publication, the ACLU of Florida spokeswoman Casey Bruce said Babices's attorney, Barry Butin, didn't ask for organizational permission when he went before the principal of Everglades High. "We would've liked to have known the history that you brought up and a lot more," said Daniel Tilley, Legal Director for ACLU Florida. He claimed Butin broke protocol. Butin, who has volunteered for the organization for 35 years, had no comment beyond saying "[The ACLU] can say whatever they want. It's their First Amendment right."