Watch What You Say – You Can Be Fired

In 1927, teachers could be and were fired for smoking cigarettes after school hours. or for card-playing, dancing and failure to attend church. Even after Prohibition ended, teachers could be dismissed for drinking or frequenting a place where liquor was served.

Teachers can be suspended, and even fired, for what they write on Facebook. Just ask a New York City math teacher who may soon be dismissed for posting angry messages about her students. Last June, just before summer vacation began, a Harlem schoolgirl drowned during a field trip to a beach. The math teacher had nothing to do with that incident, but the following afternoon, she typed a quick note on Facebook about a particularly rowdy group of Brooklyn fifth graders in her charge.

“After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class,” she wrote. “I hate their guts.”

One of her Facebook friends then asked, “Wouldn’t you throw a life jacket to little Kwami?”

“No, I wouldn’t for a million dollars,” she replied. She was pulled from the classroom in February and faced termination hearings.

Her online outburst was only the latest example of its kind. In April, a first-grade teacher in Paterson, N.J., was suspended for writing on her Facebook page that she felt like a “warden” overseeing “future criminals.” In February, a high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia was suspended for a blog entry calling her students “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners”; in another post, she imagined writing “frightfully dim” or “dresses like a streetwalker” on their report cards.

Restrictions on teacher speech lie inside the schoolhouse walls, not beyond them. Last October, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of an Ohio high-school teacher who had asked students to report about books that had been banned from schools and libraries. The exercise wasn’t in the official curriculum, and parents had complained about their children reading some of the banned books.

As they say, “A word to the wise…”



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