The New Jersey teacher stung by James O’Keefe’s latest “investigation” is speaking out.
“I think it’s so unfair that I should be in the middle of this,” 38-year-old Passaic special education teacher Alissa Ploshnick told New Jersey’s Star-Ledger in an interview. “I’m not the monster I’ve been made out to be.”
Ploshnick is one of several New Jersey teachers who “star” in a video, produced by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, titled “Teacher’s Unions Gone Wild.”
O’Keefe is the right-wing provocateur best known for stinging ACORN and getting busted trying to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phone.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Ambush ‘Filmmaker’ James O’Keefe]
“Teacher’s Unions Gone Wild” features attendees of a New Jersey Education Association conference at a hotel in August. Unaware they were being recorded, those at the conference were captured on tape in a number of compromising or indelicate moments (some of the moments are only audio, and play over still images). Some attendees chanted about kicking Gov. Chris Christie “in the toolbox.” One laughed about playing arcade games “on their dime.” Ploshnick was recorded talking about how hard it is to fire a teacher with tenure, and about a fellow teacher who continues to teach after calling a student “nigger.”
In a follow-up video titled “Teacher’s Unions Gone Wild - Volume II,” O’Keefe confronted Ploshnick directly about the use of the word “nigger” as she was getting into her car. (You can see the videos here.)
“The video speaks for itself; it is impossible to hold these teachers accountable,” O’Keefe told The Ashbury Park Press in an interview. “You have an institution deeply corrupt … This is what happens behind closed doors.”
“Go watch this video,” Gov. Christie himself remarked. “It’s enlightening, it’s enraging.”
As a result of her appearance, Ploshnick was suspended for nine days and denied a pay raise. But she’s not staying quiet. In her words to the Star-Ledger, she comes off as a dedicated teacher remorseful about what she said, and mortified by how her conversation with a man at the conference has been used against her.
“I felt like I was raped,” says Ploshnick referring to the moment she learned that what she thought was a private, even flirtatious, talk with a “nice” young man who bought her drinks was really part of a political scam to discredit her union.
It turns out that in 1997, Ploshnick received a letter of commendation from President Bill Clinton, after she threw herself in front of a van to protect her students. She suffered broken ribs, a fractured wrist, a badly bruised pelvis and glass cuts in her eyes. “You are an example for all of us, and I applaud you for your sense of duty,” Clinton wrote to her.
Ploshnick did not contest the penalties leveled on her. “I’m not proud of what I said,” she told the Star-Ledger. “I just wanted to get back to my kids.”
Watch some of the Star-Ledger’s interview with Ploshnick:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com