Teachers oversharing on Facebook: 6 cautionary tales
Calling your students "future criminals" on Facebook? How about mocking a 7-year-old's hair? For some observers, these tell-all teachers crossed the line
"A teacher, especially a great one, is a student's best friend," says The Boston Globe in an editorial. But that doesn't mean teachers and students should be "friends" on Facebook. Consider the arguments against it: Teachers shouldn't fraternize with students, there are privacy concerns for both sides, it can be creepy... oh, and if you're a teacher, it can lead to your getting fired. In fact, you don't even have to "friend" students for Facebook to land you in hot water. Here, six cautionary tales:
1. Calling students "future criminals," Paterson, N.J.Jennifer Schmid O'Brien, a first grade teacher in Paterson, N.J., is on paid leave over a Facebook post in which she said she felt like a "warden" for "future criminals" when teaching. Parents in the school's poor, high-crime neighborhood complained. Hey, O'Brien's probably right about at least one of the kids, says Jeanne Sager in The Stir. And she didn't single out any student, so what's the big deal about "a personal opinion on personal time." At least she didn't call them "future cast members of Jersey Shore," says Chris Matyszczyk at CNET.
2. Mocking a 7-year-old's hairdo, Chicago, Ill.An unidentified computer-skills teacher at Chicago's Overton Elementary School is facing disciplinary action for posting two photos of second-grader Ukailya Lofton posing with Jolly Rancher candies tied in her hair — then, according to Lofton's mom, mocking the 7-year-old. The teacher reportedly started out the post with: "And y'all thought I was joking!" Commenters added remarks such as, "I laughed so hard that my contact popped out."
3. Conceding that "I hate their guts," New York, N.Y.Math teacher Christine Rubino, at Brooklyn's P.S. 203, was so angry at her fifth grade class that she wrote on Facebook, "After today, I'm thinking the beach is a good trip for my class" — a reference to a sixth grade girl who had drowned on a beach field trip the day before — adding that, "I hate their guts." When a friend posted, "Wouldn't you throw a life jacket to little Kwami?" Rubino responded, "No I wouldn't for a million dollars." Rubino, who may be fired, was busted when a fellow teacher emailed the principal.
4. Bemoaning "germ bags" in the classroom, Cohasset, Mass.June Talvitie-Siple resigned under pressure after writing on Facebook last year that the locals in the swanky waterfront town of Cohasset are "so arrogant and snobby" — adding, "now I remember why I stopped teaching! Kids... they are all germ bags." Talvitie-Siple thought she was just venting to friends, but had failed to set her Facebook security settings correctly, which "was stupid," she says, "because I have a lot of technology background."
5. Flirting with students on Facebook, New York, N.Y. Three New York high school teachers were fired in the second half of last year for posting risque comments on students' Facebook pages, or conducting inappropriate relationships with students. Bronx teacher Chadwin Reynolds, 37, reportedly "friended" a half-dozen female students, and posted comments like "This is sexy," on their pages; substitute teacher Stephen D'Andrilli committed similar offenses. And Laurie Hirsch, 30, lost her job after a Facebook photo showing her kissing a former student led to revelations that the pair had slept together the previous year.
6. Posting photos with strippers, Brownsville, Pa.Spanish teacher Ginger D'Amico had strict privacy settings on Facebook, didn't post anything offensive, and was still suspended for 30 days after a friend briefly posted a photo of her with a male stripper snapped at a bachelorette party D'Amico hosted for a fellow teacher. She was dinged because her face was the only one identifiable in the photo. She sued, and settled for backpay and $10,000 in damages. "This was something completely innocent [that] got blown out of proportion," she says. "No teacher took off their clothes, and no body parts were exposed."