Local school officials say they have no policies concerning social networking pages or blogs kept by teachers. But they said that online improprieties would fall under general guidelines requiring proper behavior in and outside school and that sketchy Web sites would be handled case by case.
"I hate to think of what's out there. . . . There's so much out there that it's hard to know what's there," said Ken Blackstone, a Prince William schools spokesman. "But as public employees, we all understand the importance of living a public life above reproach."
I've posted before about my concerns about these "morals clauses". What teachers do in their off time is nobody else's concern unless it affects their on-duty time. Yes, one could argue that "if kids see your college frat/sorority party pictures online, that could limit your effectiveness in class"--and it might, if you don't already have a good rapport with students as well as good classroom management skills. Granted, it's best if raucous behavior is kept from students, and it certainly shouldn't be celebrated during class time, but as I've said before, teachers shouldn't have to be saints.
Here's a prime example of my concern, from the linked article above:
In Prince William, Rich Davila, a real estate company director and the father of a 6-year-old first-grader, said that when he found a substitute teacher's risque MySpace page recently, he complained to school officials and the teacher was eventually removed. School officials said they cannot comment on the teacher's case, citing personnel rules.
The teacher's page includes a painting of a young woman lifting up her dress, exposing her lingerie, and another showing her bare chest. "I felt sick to my stomach when I saw the page," Davila said. "These Web sites are the bars and restaurants of our new era. It's like running into your teacher in a restaurant and seeing them not act appropriately. It's going to come back and haunt him."
Sick to your stomach? You're a wuss. What was described shouldn't make anyone but the most prissy Puritan sick to their stomach.
I'm sure this blog turns the stomach of some lefties. Should I be fired over it? Conceivably, I could be:
If teachers claim free speech protection under the First Amendment...the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that governments can fire employees if their speech harmed the workplace's mission and function.
Now I'm sure some of you lefties are squealing about my support for the sections of California education code that prohibit Communists from teaching. How can you, these lefties might ask, reconcile your view that teachers can do everything except be Communists? The answer is simple: the 1st Amendment must be interpreted as broadly as possible, but it is not a carte blanche. Not supporting socialism (me) is a far cry from wanting to do away with our representative form of government (communists). Trying to claim a moral equivalence, lefties, will not make you look especially bright.
So I support the butt-print artist, the teacher who sold paintings he made by putting paint on his butt and smearing his cheeks on canvas. A bit odd, but that off-school activity has no bearing on his ability to teach children. I support teachers who were fired for putting "unprofessional" information on their personal web sites. I'd support a teacher who was fired merely for being seen at an event some might consider "unsavory". Because if you think about it, this event was unsavory in my book, and it included plenty of teachers.
Let teachers live like any other adult. I don't know too many with a halo. I myself have one, but even still it's not perfectly shiny.