Created on: January 27, 2013 Last Updated: January 30, 2013
Social media websites such as Facebook have become a staple in the daily routines of many. However, daily use of social media can land people in trouble if they aren't careful. The lines that separate the 'online' and the 'offline' worlds have progressively become blurred and, over time, that indistinct separation has led to serious consequences for many people.
Teachers, for instance, have been making headlines lately for various posts and images posted to Facebook. Some of these educators have had to deal with severe repercussions for posts that may or may not have been created to spark controversy.
Free speech vs. employer policy
Free speech is a Constitutional right in the U.S. and with this right, people, including teachers, are allowed to speak their mind. However, many employers also have policies that address social media, perhaps limiting what teachers (and other school employees) can say while on sites such as Facebook.
In December 2012, a New Jersey teacher came under fire for a comment made about a gay history exhibit that was on display at the school. Calling for its removal, "she then urged her friends to pray and eventually called homosexuality a perverted sin," reported NPR.
This led to protests, with one protestor saying, "She has the right to post as a private citizen, but not as a teacher." Others came to the teacher's defense, saying she had a right to free speech.
But does she? Or others? A teacher in Ohio found himself under public scrutiny after making a politically charged comment after the 2012 election.
NPR listed in its piece several excerpts from various school district social media policies around the country. Many of them are clearly defined and either prohibit or recommend certain behaviors. NPR said in some cases these have "led to questions over whether teachers can use social media at all."
Angering parents and the general public is another pitfall teachers have to navigate if they use Facebook, or other social media sites, on a personal level. Friending students is often a no-no, and even if not, one post can get educators in trouble.
In 2011, a first-grade teacher commented on Facebook that she felt like a "warden overseeing future criminals," as she vented about her job, reported the New York Times. This comment infuriated parents and led to a paid suspension for the teacher as the situation was investigated.
This instructor is not the only one; there are many instances of teachers venting
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