You are on page 1of 4

Ali Hendrickson

Ethics in Education
June 25, 2017

Contemporary Legal Analysis: Teachers and Social Networking

The issue I chose to discuss references teachers and their use/misuse of Facebook; both

for personal and classroom use. As referenced by Solomon (2011), “Teachers have been fired for

comments they posted on Facebook, which raises free speech issues and questions about how

teachers should interact on social media.” Several problems arise when considering what to post

and how to post information about yourself or your classroom: confidentiality, relevance, and

district regulations. When creating a personal profile as an educator, one must be very careful

who you befriend and the nature of your content. Teachers should be held to the same

professional standard on social media as matches their job description in the school setting.

Personally, I have both types of profiles on Facebook. This year I created a “private” Facebook

page that I created for parents of the children in class. I found the classroom group to be very

responsive and had growing support from families throughout the school year. Parents were

happy to feel more involved in their child’s education and see their academic work through

snapshots captured throughout the school day. As an educator, I encourage open lines of

communication and welcome any questions, feedback, and support through an open-door policy.

Below are two cases where teachers misuse social media:

Case one (2012),

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-

2452-11T4 IN THE MATTER OF THE TENURE HEARING OF JENNIFER O'BRIEN,


STATE OPERATED SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF PATERSON, PASSAIC

COUNTY.

O’Brien stated on Facebook, "I'm not a teacher I'm a warden for future criminals!" The

second statement was, "They had a scared straight program in school why couldn't [I]

bring [first] graders?" The court found “that evidence supported the charges of conduct

unbecoming a teacher. The ALJ determined that the evidence established that O'Brien

failed to maintain a safe, caring, nurturing, educational environment, as alleged in the

first charge. The ALJ additionally determined that O'Brien breached her duty as a

professional teacher, as alleged in the second charge. In addition, the ALJ found that

O'Brien's conduct endangered the mental well-being of the students, as claimed in the

fifth charge. The ALJ also determined O'Brien's actions warranted her removal, although

her prior record was unblemished and she had argued she should not be unduly penalized

for "a momentary lapse in judgment."”

Case two (2007),

“Twenty-five-year-old Stacy Snyder, a senior at Millersville University in Millersville,

Pennsylvania, was dropped from the student-teaching portion of her course work after the

staff at the high school where she was student-teaching viewed postings on her MySpace

page. The postings that the high school staff found inappropriate included a photo of

Stacy taken at a costume party. In the photo, Stacy is seen wearing a pirate hat, drinking

from a plastic cup; the photo caption reads: “A Drunken Pirate.” Her MySpace page also

included a posting that could be interpreted as a negative comment about her supervising

teacher at the high school. The federal judge ruled against Ms. Snyder, stating that the
university is under no obligation to award the teaching degree without the required hours

of student teaching. The judge also stated that a teacher’s First Amendment rights pertain

to public matters only, not personal.”

I agree with how both cases were resolved. Even though these findings represent earlier

cases at the beginning of the technology “boom”, I find it reassuring that teachers are held to

such a high professional standard. I believe that all political opinions, social relationships, and

personal information should be kept off the internet. It is disheartening to other educators when

they see people disrespecting their internet privileges and using it as a platform to impose your

beliefs and opinions about race, gender, orientation, etc. As stated in the O’Brien case, they

discussed how the information displayed on the internet was “unbecoming of a teachers” and

rightfully so. We are teaching within a very controversial age where social justice issues and

equality debates are frequent and I feel educators should have enough common sense to keep

their opinions and views of students and school social climate to themselves. With how advanced

and savvy individuals are with technology, teachers should know how public all information is

and should use classroom websites, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. very carefully.

Technology in the classroom and social media have been topics analyzed for years and

there are many rules that spell out how teachers and students can interact online. In some cases,

it has led to questions over whether teachers can use social media at all. When deciding how to

resolve this situation, I feel it’s very important to bring up staff professional development

regarding digital citizenship. I would love to spend more time learning online

programming/coding/S.T.E.M. and technology use in the classroom. This year I visited the staff

handbook once when referencing the introduction of my Facebook group and I haven’t revisited

it since. There has been little training for teachers in my building on how to prepare children for
the 21st century skills they face in school and future careers. Our mission at Sam Davey states

that we plan to prepare our children for post-secondary success and I think more can be done to

promote safe web surfing, digital citizenship, and responsible use of internet practices. Providing

more instruction/training to both staff and students would have a positive effect on how people

behave on the internet and help discourage cyberbullying. This year our school has adopted an

“Innovation Zone” plan where we will begin introducing IPad’s to our primary grades in the

coming 2017-18 school year. I look forward to more conversations with my colleagues regarding

technology use in the classroom.

References

http://www.nea.org/home/38324.htm

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/07/143264921/friendly-advice-for-teachers-beware-of-facebook

http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-unpublished/2013/a2452-11.html