Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Teachers, Students, and Off-Campus Conduct

What teachers and students do on their own time, away from school, is no one's business but theirs.

I continue to be amazed that schools think they can get involved in what students put on their Myspace pages, or when students have issues with each other outside of school. At that point, the problem becomes that of the parents, not the school.

I'm sure that school administrators would then claim that such issues could create a disruption or distraction on campus, and hence they have a duty to act. Acting to prevent a potential disruption or distraction gets into a gray area with me, in the realm of thought crimes and such. What constitutes a potential disruption?

Similarly, these "morals clauses" in teachers' contracts or ed code really frost me. Yes, I work with children, but that doesn't mean I should have to be a saint. Whose morals do we go with? If a teacher gets a DUI and has to ride his/her bike to school each day, wouldn't that violate someone's morals? What if a teacher--gasp!--solicited a prostitute? What if a teacher has a night job as a stripper? What if a teacher were spotted entering an adult establishment? What if a teacher does sexual things with a cigar, or has sex with an intern? What if a teacher has an affair with a consenting adult?

Of course, the ideal would be if students never heard about these situations--and any teacher that opted to share with students details of participating in such activities could very well be considered to have crossed the line. However, what if students hear about these activities through other means, like from their parents, for example? Is the mere knowledge of these activities enough to constitute a disruption or distraction that would merit administrative action?

I bring all this up because the butt-print artist has now been fired.

Murmer, a teacher at Monacan High School, was suspended in December after objections were raised about his private abstract artwork, much of which includes smearing his posterior and genitals with paint and pressing them against canvas.

His paintings sell for as much as $900 each on his Web site.

The unique approach to art became a topic when a clip showing Murmer, wearing a fake nose and glasses, a towel on his head and black thong, turned up on and became the talk of the high school.

Weird, I'll give you that. But I don't see this weirdo's actions as meriting being fired. Had he directed students to the YouTube video, or displayed his "art" in class, I could understand that. But when doing something entirely legal, completely outside of school, becomes a cause to fire a teacher, we've gone too far.


Anonymous said...


La Maestra said...

- Teacher with a DUI riding a bike to school? Check.
- Superintendent busted soliciting a prostitute? Check.
- Teacher having an affair with a consenting adult? Check.

Are you in my district?

It's a million times worse living in a small town. We have one local grocery store, and I almost never get anything there that could be even remotely risque. I have or have had half the checkers as students, and it doesn't matter what time of night or day I go there--I always run into someone I know, and they do the inevitable peer-into-the-shopping-cart as they stop to chat. I was actually warned about this by my BTSA mentor when I first came here.

I can't wait to leave, let me tell you.

La Maestra said...

Actually, though, I do have to admit that I have made comments to some of my AVID students before about inappropriate Myspace content. But I do that because I feel very parental toward some of them, and I feel like someone has to call them on their inappropriate behavior. However, I have never brought it to the attention of school authorities. Like I said, some things need to go through the parents (or local law enforcement) first.

I agree with you on acting to prevent a potential disruption being a gray area, and I don't really like the idea either. I've been advised by a number of people to quit looking at my students' MySpace pages, but the fact of the matter is that it's a good way for me to keep up with some former students, as well as a good way for kids who aren't my students but want college counseling advice to contact me with questions.

Darren said...

I have no doubt that school officials look at Myspace pages, especially those of "at risk" or "known troublemaker" students.

I have wondered if someone might try to come after me for what I write on this blog. Actually, Sandy Smith did (type her name into the search engine at the top of the page, if you're interested) but she dropped it quickly. Someone who had more free time, more money, and less intelligence might not. I'm certainly not going to ask for it, but I'm not going to self-censor in fear of it, either.

Anonymous said...

The students are dumb enought to post private stuff on myspace for THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS to see. So, if the dumbsh** student posts his/her content on myspace for the public, why should the teacher not be allowed to see it? Is the teacher not part of the public?

Basically, i personally think that if a student says something on his blog about "DUDE, I GOT SO WAISTED DURING 3RD PERIOD, IM GOING TO DO IT AGAIN TOMORROW AND A FEW BUDDIES OF MINE ARE GUNNA JOIN ME. WE MIGHT EVEN DITCH SCHOOL TO SMOKE SOME SH**. JOIN IF YOU WANT" then the student's myspace should be refered to his/her parents, and with something like the example i just posted, then the authorities should be involved as well. Truth be told, school officials and teachers go on myspace to look at the students content more than the students' own parents. So who do you think is going to notice the content first?

Hell, You just have to know what to and not to post. For an example, I'v included a link to MY MySpace. The worst thing you'll find, is me smoking a cigar with my dad when i was 3. Students just have to be smart about what to and not to post.

La Maestra said...

Thanks to you, I mananged to waste 10 minutes on the Sandy Smith thing, and now I'm running late. :-)

I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog, despite your unfortunate conservatism (kidding!) Irreverence is always welcome, stupidity will be met with sarcasm, and you're a thinking conservative (as opposed to the "OH NOES!!1!1! BOOBIES!! BAN THEM!!" variety that Sandy Smith apparently is.)

I enjoy listening to and conversing with the former, while the latter just makes me grind my teeth.

Darren said...

Sounds like a compliment. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I got on myspace because my college aged son's band has its gig schedule there. In trying to find him, by putting my town in the search engine for the site, I found the sites for several current students. Most of the site were pretty innocuous, but some did go over the top with language, suggestive photos and general lying. One totally annoying kid claimed to be both 17 and have a Mustang 6.0-both untrue. One girl, who will remain anonymous, posted photos for guys to comment. I stopped when I finally found my son's site. Now that's the only site I go to. I really don't want to know any more.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking if this guy is pulling down 900 bucks each time he does his magic butt paintings, he's not going to be hurting from losing his teaching job.
Now I'm off to the Sherman- Williams store...

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I just got done catching up on the whole "Sandy Smith" debacle, and all I can say is -- I REALLY wish I had been reading your blog during that time. That was fantastic. And yes, that third picture of the dog IS freaking hilarious!
I'm adding you to my blog roll right now.

Darren said...

Glad to have you!