An unflattering video made during a New Jersey Education Association leadership conference this summer has had repercussions for at least one union member: A Passaic special education teacher was suspended for nine days and will be docked a pay raise after making crude comments to an undercover videographer.Where and when does a teacher's job end? Does a teacher give up 1st Amendment rights by virtue of being a teacher?
Alissa Ploshnick’s unintentional starring performance in the "Teachers Unions Gone Wild" video included, among other things, using the "N" word and joking about how hard it is for tenured teachers to be fired. It was all caught on tape at a hotel bar during the weeklong conference in August.
Passaic Superintendent Robert Holster, who said he considered bringing harsher punishment of tenure charges, said the discipline was a "difficult decision," because "some people believe what’s said outside the school system is someone’s right."
But he said Ploshnick’s comments — which he called "professionally insulting" and not "the responsible behavior of a professional person employed by the Passaic Board of Education" — merited the response. He said the tape created "kind of an outrage" in Passaic.
"The character of an educator has to be beyond the school bell. It doesn’t take place only in school," Holster said...
Ploshnick earns "probably in the high 90s" and teaches a class of seven or eight special education students, Holster said. Wollmer said Ploshnick once was named "Teacher of the Year."
The video was one of three targeting the NJEA that was released by self-styled muckraker James O’Keefe. Taped largely at the East Brunswick Hilton, it included teachers chanting things against Gov. Chris Christie, who has been in an on-going battle with the union. Ploshnick was one of few identified teachers in the video.
Wollmer said an "operative" bought her drinks and secretly recorded her at the bar, engaging her in what she thought was a "social" conversation.
The video is from a teachers union powwow, so I can see how someone can legitimately argue that the teachers on the video were acting in some capacity as teachers and that their actions and words are not entirely free. Again, I can see how someone can legitimately argue that, I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with it. It's an interesting topic to me--when, exactly, can I be busted for what I say and do on my own time, or on my own blog?
While I'm not suggesting that those teachers were acting appropriately, there really HAS to be a line that can be drawn. Right now, teachers can be fired for using Social Networking sites, drinking (on their own time), smoking, wearing low-cut outfits, expressing opinions about their workplace, expressing political opinions, having a messy personal life.
We really need to set a standard that says, if you aren't personally identifying yourself as an employee/teacher, your life is your own. Period.
I agree there should be *some* line, but I'm not sure I'd draw it in the same exact area as you do above--but that's as good a place as any to start the negotiations!
This blog wouldn't be near as--authentic?--if I didn't identify myself as a teacher. But as I put in the comments of another post, I myself *never* identify the school at which I work.
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