While ex Barrow County teacher Ashley Payne still awaits her day in court over the Facebook page photos of her trip to Europe that landed her in hot water with her principal and to a resignation that she maintains was coerced, other teachers continue to get in trouble over their social networking sites.
Among the latest casualty: A Massachusetts school administrator resigned at the end of last week after posting on her Facebook page that the parents in her upscale town were “arrogant” and “snobby.” June Talvitie-Siple was the program supervisor for science and math at Cohasset High School until school officials found out about the comments.
The 30-year veteran also posted that she was, “so not looking forward to another year at Cohasset Schools.” And she called students “germ bags.” Unlike Payne who limited her Facebook page to her friends, Talvitie-Siple had not restricted the wall of her Facebook page. Parents spotted the comments and alerted the superintendent who asked Talvitie-Siple to resign. She complied, saying that she would have likely done the same thing if she were school chief.
“I made a stupid mistake, it may have cost me my career,” said Talvitie-Siple, who has since changed her Facebook settings and wants other teachers to learn from her mistake.
“I take full responsibility for my stupidity and I hope it serves as an example to kids that they need to be very, very vigilant about their privacy,” she told ABC News
In a case similar to Ashley Payne’s experience, a sociology professor at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania was suspended for a posting to her Facebook page, which she said she had on the highest privacy settings.
Writing in jest, Professor Gloria Gadsden wrote: “Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete hitman? Yes, it’s been that kind of day?” A few months later, she posted, “had a good day today. DIDN’T want to kill even one student. . Now Friday was a different story.”
As happened to Payne, someone with access to the “private” Facebook page notified the school of Gadsden’s jokes. In Payne’s case, the anonymous note was written by someone alleging to be a parent whose teen was a Facebook friend of Payne’s. Payne says she had no students as friends and no student has ever been found. In fact, the district has yet to determine the source of the e-mail. You can read here why I am pretty sure another teacher wrote the incriminating e-mail that led to Payne losing her job.
In 2008, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools disciplined seven educators for their social networking postings, including an elementary school teacher who posted derogatory statements about her young students on Facebook.
The teacher listed “teaching chitlins in the ghetto of Charlotte” among her interests on her Facebook profile. In her About Me section, the teacher also wrote, “I am teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte.”
John Gresham of Charlotte, who represents the teacher, said she only meant to share her comments with friends with access to her page on the popular social networking site. She now faces possible firing for listing “teaching chitlins in the ghetto of Charlotte” among her activities.
“Facebook pages are only meant to be viewed by people permitted to see them,” said Gresham, who questioned how her private postings became public.
On Thursday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools spokeswoman Nora Carr said the district allows teachers to post personal information online, but had to take action because it affected the teacher’s ability to interact with students and parents. She called the comments racially insensitive or offensive to students at Thomasboro Elementary School, where she teaches. “Clearly, when there is poor professional judgment, it impacts the teacher’s ability to do their job,” Carr said.
CMS officials plan to send a memo to their 19,000 employees saying that Web postings that can be viewed by the public should be appropriate.
A 26-year-old third-grade CMS teacher who did not want her name used, fearing reprisals, said the district hasn’t clearly specified what employees can and cannot post on such sites. Most teachers think if they keep their profiles private, she said, they’ll be safe.
“Our principal encouraged us to use our profiles to post links like ‘Adopt A Classroom’ to bring in potential donors,” she said. “But, given the recent investigations, he also told us to be careful about our Facebook material.”
CMS announced earlier this week it had suspended the teacher and disciplined four others for postings on Facebook. The action came after WCNC, the Observer’s news partner, discovered the pages on the Web site by searching for people who identified themselves as CMS employees.
Postings include photos of female teachers in sexually suggestive poses and a black male teacher who listed “Chillin wit my n—as!!!” as an activity.
In her “About Me” section, the suspended teacher wrote: “I am teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte.” Most students at Thomasboro Elementary are minorities from low-income homes.
Gresham said the district took action against her because officials were embarrassed by news reports. He questioned whether it was appropriate for a reporter to air private postings.
He said the teacher is helping the district with grading while she is suspended, and has been sharing lesson plans.
Teachers nationwide have been fired or suspended for online postings. Among them: A Colorado English teacher lost her job for posting her sexually explicit poetry on MySpace, a Florida band director was fired for a profile that included “his musings about sex, drugs and depression,” and a Virginia art teacher lost his job for posting photos of his “butt art,” done by painting his private parts and pressing them onto canvas.
I still go back to what Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators said in response to the Ashley Payne incident.
We have talked to teachers about their expectations of privacy in this new world. As American citizens, they have a First Amendment Right to have a Facebook page, but we are telling them, ‘Don’t do it.”’
I think it is good advice. What do you think?