State Rep. Steve Tarvin of Chickamauga issued an apology Monday over his recent comment that teachers are "self-centered crybabies." He told GPB News he was deeply sorry for offending anyone, but also said he was "not walking back my comment in context."

"It appears I hurt people, and I am very, very sorry for that," he said. "I'm asking you, if you can do one kind thing this year, it's help a country boy let people know he's sorry." 

State Rep. Steve Tarvin issued an apology Monday over his recent comment that teachers are "self-centered crybabies."
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State Rep. Steve Tarvin issued an apology Monday over his recent comment that teachers are "self-centered crybabies."

At another point, he said, “I apologize in the most heartfelt way to all the educators if they think I was saying if they didn’t go back to school, they were sissies. Let me put it that way.”

Tarvin was blasted over the weekend after news reports surfaced over his teachers as "crybabies" comment made in a Facebook thread.

In a freewheeling, 30-minute phone conversation, Tarvin said he has had “kids in public school since 1976,” including grandchildren, and that he’s never once complained about a teacher.  But he did say “we have a growing problem in this nation” of teachers complaining too much.

“My position from the beginning is that I think the students should be in the classroom for their own health and wellbeing,” he said, adding, “If a teacher does not want to go back to school because of COVID, I absolutely honor their right not to do that.”

He said he recently read about how teachers in Cherokee County resigned over not wanting to return to the classroom due to the pandemic. "That’s personally their business and I have nothing to say about that,” Tarvin said. “The post was not about that.”

“What was the criticism I was standing by?” he asked. “Wait a minute, I’m fixing to tell you.”

He then gave a long explanation of how he was responding to his Facebook thread. Tarvin shared a text image of his Facebook post that read, "Has any other essential industry put up a fight about working like teachers have?"

A screenshot of the original post, supplied to GPB News by Rep. Tarvin.
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A screenshot of the original post, supplied to GPB News by Rep. Tarvin.

He said he posted the meme because of his concerns that essential workers, including educators, may not adapt quick enough to living around the pandemic.

"I've never seen a group of doctors or nurses refuse to go back to work until there was a vaccine," he said. "I don't believe there's going to be a vaccine, or there may be. What if there's not one in six months? What if there's not one in a year, two years? What do we do then?"

It was Tarvin's reply to a comment on the thread that has since generated controversy and resulted in several outraged responses from other lawmakers across the state.

"I stand by my criticism of teachers nationally, they are self centered cry babies, too large a percentage having the best jobs they could possibly hold down yet they bitch," he wrote. "Many are tremendous, some of my greatest mentors are teachers."

State Rep. Bee Nguyen of the 89th District called Tarvin out on Twitter, saying his comments were indicative of Republican hypocrisy on education. 

Tarvin contended that the comment in question was taken out of context. He said that there was a lengthy comment chain that happened in response to his initial post, but several of the comments were later deleted by their authors, leaving only his words.

Tarvin supplied GPB News with partial screenshots of the thread captured by a third party, which he said show some of the comments that were later removed.

A portion of a screenshot supplied by Tarvin, which he said is a reply written by another person which was later deleted from the comment thread of the post.
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A portion of a screenshot supplied by Tarvin, which he said is a reply written by another person which was later deleted from the comment thread of the post.

 

A screenshot provided to GPB News by Rep. Tarvin, which he said was his reply to a deleted comment on the thread.
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A screenshot provided to GPB News by Rep. Tarvin, which he said was his reply to a deleted comment on the thread.

 

Tarvin said additional comments, which were not captured, were also deleted from the thread.

"When I saw they were gone, I immediately erased everything because I realized it no longer made sense," he said. "Nothing in the thread made sense after that."

He said the expletive used in his reply was originally invoked by one of the now-deleted comments and not his own word, but admitted he did regret repeating it.

The representative also said that he never meant to imply that teachers were cowardly for choosing not to go back to school due to concerns around the pandemic.

"I think if a teacher has concerns, he or she should not go back to the classroom," he said. "And I would not have one word to say about it."

He said that his posting of the meme was meant to be a criticism of teachers across the country, and not specifically about how they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he stands by that specific criticism of teachers.

"I think that we have a growing problem in this nation of teachers that are starting to complain so much that even older teachers notice it," he said. "Most teachers are excellent and tremendous."

He said he never meant to imply that teachers weren't skilled enough to hold other jobs, but understood why he believed that was a perception some had.

"When that happened, I immediately apologized and put it at the top of the post," he said.

Tarvin said it had been a learning experience for him regarding social media.

"I will never make another reply to anything that can be erased by somebody else," he said. "If I have to make a comment, I'll do it individually and tag their name."