Monday, April 28, 2008

Teachers, Facebook, and Potential Trouble

Both Joanne and NewsAlert (see blogroll) have linked to this Washington Post article about (usually young) teachers who have, shall we say, less than absolutely professional information on their personal Facebook pages.

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.


Eric W. said...

To be fair, not all communists want to do away with a representative form of government. There are totalitarians on the far right (Pinochet) and anarchists on the far left (anarcho-syndicalists). However, these laws were obviously written with Soviet-style communism in mind, which, as you mentioned, does call for the destruction of the American way of life.

Linda Fox said...

I've found that criticisms for off-duty behavior are stronger when the community is small and relatively homogeneous. Young teachers should beware - social networking sites are being checked. Behavior that is NOT illegal or improper for adults is held to be reason for losing a job.

Anonymous said...

The article really does a poor job in discussing the recent SCOTUS case -- as it involved speech in the workplace that was directly related to the functioning of the organization that harms the workplace's mission and function.

Darren said...

True, but "for the children" or "to protect the children" can be stretched mighty far.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the First Amendment has no mention of what political views you can freely hold. You might want there to be a limit on the political views you can freely hold, but there is no grounding for that in constitutional law. Indeed, it would be a little strange for a bunch of revolutionaries to have intended to prevent people holding revolutionary ideas.

Darren said...

I'm not so sure. It was those very Founders who wrote the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Mr. W said...

With the onslaught of sites liek Myspace and Facebook, teachers are becoming more of a 24/7/365 type job. We can never be adults always teachers now.

More and more young teachers have these sites and it is going to get worse. They ahve been really popular for about 5 years or so. Those kids are now getting out of college and, for some, moving into education. Their profiles are all public unless they change them...mark my words alot worse before better.

SentWest said...

I love Facebook and MySpace, they both make my hiring decisions that much easier.

Yes, it's a little untoward, but I always Google potential employees as well as check out their networking sites. I promise that if one has nekkid pictures, pictures of themselves driving with open containers of alcohol, etc and hasn't yet figured out how to make their site private they're not smart enough to hire.

Rip Ford said...

This isn't unique to the teaching profession. Its become fairly standard for companies to Google potential employees to see what they're putting out on the web. If nothing else, its considered a way of finding out how good someone's judgement is. Its just a reality of our world. If you're going to be an exhibitionist and put the less savory aspects of your life on display for all to see, don't be surprised when it comes back to bite you on the ass.

Darren said...

Would that be the ass they're baring on Facebook?

HAHAHA Sometimes I slay myself.

Mister Teacher said...

"It's like running into your teacher in a restaurant and seeing them not act appropriately."

So is this guy suggesting that if he goes to the Applebees down the street and sees a teacher drinking a 'rita, he can get HER fired too??