Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teacher could lose job for comments on Facebook

A first-grade teacher in Paterson, New Jersey recently described her students as "future criminals" on Facebook.  Parents complained that her remarks were offensive.  A judge seems to agree.  She could be fired.  

According to Reuters:

Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass ruled that the Paterson teacher, Jennifer O'Brien, "demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the world in which her students live" and recommended that she lose her tenured position.

Paterson is a poor, urban New Jersey community with a high rate of violent crime.  According to court documents, school officials interpreted O'Brien's comment as racially charged.

Paterson is a low-income, urban community with a high rate of violent crime.  School officials
The state Department of Education states that the incident marks the first time in New Jersey that a public school teacher has faced such public scrutiny for social media behavior.  School officials also say that this is also the first time a Paterson teacher has been disciplined in connection with the use of social media.

 The teacher reportedly wrote the comment ("I'm not a teacher - I'm a warden for future criminals!") to her 333 Facebook friends after one of her first graders hit her and others stole money from her.  Some of Facebook friends forwarded the comment to others.  In time, the comment was brought to the attention of school officials.

Some experts believe that incidents like this one "are more about free speech than about social media such as Facebook, a public forum in which postings can be forwarded and ultimately read by anyone."

What do you think?


Shirazi said...

Teacher should have been more careful. Rather it is the job of teachers to turn anyone into good cirizens.

Rose said...

As a teacher you have to be careful what you say. Afterall, if she believes she is a warden of future criminals, surely she will not give her all to teach them. She has already labeled them. But she shouldn't be fired because she has a right to say what she wants. But I would monitor her work like crazy! Happy Thanksgiving Deb and Dirk!

Deb Sistrunk said...

Rose and Shirazi: You are right. The teacher used poor judgment in venting about her students on the Internet. Rule of thumb: If you post anything on the Web, assume everyone is reading it, including your mother, even if it's password-protected.

I don't know this teacher or her character. However, by publicly venting, the teacher has left herself open to scrutiny.

What's troubling is that this teacher may be walking into the classroom each day assuming that these children cannot be taught, assuming that these students have no capacity to grow up to be productive adults. If that is true, then it's likely the teacher doesn't truly engage her students because she has low expectations. This is one of the reasons our schools continue to struggle to close the achievement gap.

Education is the cornerstone of our democracy. Our students deserve better than what some classrooms offer. An incident like this serves as a wake-up call to parents to pay attention to what's going in in their children's classroom.

On a lighter note, Happy Thanksgiving, Rose!