Why are teachers getting into trouble?
"Duh! I'm not going to ask my students to join me at a foam party over Facebook! This doesn't apply to me."
Well, you might want to think about it, because school districts interpret what is and isn't appropriate behavior, and here are a few examples where teachers have gotten into trouble:
- A Pennsylvania student teacher lost her teaching credential and position for posting a picture of herself as a "drunken pirate" on MySpace, because the action was said (a) to constitute a breach in standards of professionalism and (b) to promote underage drinking (source).
- A fifth-grade teacher in New York is awaiting termination hearings after she privately said on Facebook that she "hates [her students'] guts" and that she wouldn't save them if they were drowning (source).
- A Massachusetts biology teacher lost her job after calling her students "germ bags" and local residents "arrogant and snobby" on Facebook (source).
- An English teacher in Georgia lost her job after uploading pictures to her Facebook page that included an expletive and images of her holding beer and wine while on a European vacation (source).
- A substitute teacher and coach in Massachusetts was fired after "friending" a student on Facebook, which the district viewed as a breach of appropriate boundaries (source).
- A teacher in the UK was fired for self-publishing a novel about the exploits of some of her students that included risqué content and profanities (source).
- A Missouri teacher and volleyball coach was fired when administrators discovered that she had worked as a porn actress two decades before (source).
- A Pennsylvania English teacher was suspended after calling some of her students "rat-like ... rude, disengaged, lazy whiners" in a blog post (source).
- A teacher in Washington D.C. was fired after blogging that some students should "piss off" and that forcing students to take AP tests is "f***ing pathetic" (source).
- Parents are demanding that a Pennsylvania teacher be fired after discovering that she writes erotic novels under a penname (source).
- A Maine football coach resigned after accidentally posting a naked picture of himself on Facebook (source).
- An Illinois teacher was fired after exchanging "inappropriate" text messages with a student (source).
- An Arizona teacher was fired for having a bumper sticker that asks "have you drugged your kid today?" (source).
- A Connecticut teacher was fired for having a MySpace page with, amongst other things, naked men on it (source).
- A Florida middle-school teacher was fired for posting an inappropriate picture on MySpace (source).
- An Austin, Texas art teacher was fired after posting nude pictures of herself to MySpace and Flickr (source).
One thing that you should notice from this list is that no two cases are identical, and few of these teachers broke the law. What they have in common is that the district believed each teacher's behavior to be immoral or inappropriate, and the district had the power to enforce its interpretation of morality and professionalism upon its teachers. Some involve alcohol, some involve crude language, some involve risqué photos or behavior, etc., and most teachers didn't think they were doing anything wrong, thought they were posting content "privately," or "accidentally" shared something that they otherwise wouldn't have shown to students. None of that really matters, though, because they were disciplined all the same.