CHARLOTTE -- A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher faces firing for posting derogatory comments about students on Facebook, while four others have been disciplined for posts involving “poor judgment and bad taste,” school district spokeswoman Nora Carr said Tuesday.
WCNC, The (Charlotte) Observer's news partner, turned up questionable pages on the social networking site by searching for people who identified themselves as Charlotte-Mecklenburg employees.
Superintendent Peter Gorman has recommended firing a teacher who listed “teaching chitlins in the ghetto of Charlotte” as one of her activities and drinking as one of her hobbies.
In her “About Me” section she wrote: “I am teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte.”
Thomasboro Elementary, where most students are minorities from low-income homes, lists that teacher as a faculty member on the school Web site. She has been suspended with pay, Carr said; the dismissal is not final because teachers have a right to appeal. The Observer is not publishing her name, pending the district's final decision in her case.
Reporter Jeff Campbell of WCNC said he showed district officials pages involving seven CMS teachers. Carr said four faced unspecified discipline that is less than suspension or dismissal. She would not provide details about the offensive material, but the pages Campbell submitted included photos of female teachers in sexually suggestive poses and a black male teacher who listed “Chillin wit my n---as!!!” as an activity and had a suggestive exchange with a female “Facebook friend” accompanying a shirtless photo of himself.
The school district is reviewing the case of a high-school special-education teacher who used a Facebook “mood box” to post “I'm feeling p---ed because I hate my students!”
District officials are working on a memo reminding all 19,000 employees that information they post on the Web can be viewed by the public and should be appropriate. “When you're in a professional position, especially one where you're interacting with children and parents, you need to be above reproach,” Carr said.
The teachers in question chose to identify their employer and skipped an option that blocks public viewing of their pages. “I think they just didn't think these things through,” Carr said. “That's kind of mind-boggling.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has an investigator who specializes in online issues, including reports of inappropriate material posted by students about teachers. Carr said “several” employees a year are disciplined for inappropriate posts. The district generally responds to complaints, rather than randomly viewing pages.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other districts also check Web pages, especially popular networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, before hiring, Carr said.
Teachers across the country have faced similar situations – enough so that NEA Today, the journal of the National Education Association, published a roundup this year. It included a Colorado English teacher fired for posting her sexually explicit poetry on MySpace, a Florida band director fired for a MySpace profile that included “his musings about sex, drugs and depression,” and a Virginia art teacher fired for posting photos of his “butt art,” done by painting his private parts and pressing them onto canvas.
Last fall, according to NEA Today, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch found teachers writing about sex, drugs and drinking on their MySpace profiles.
“There's an old lawyer's saw that goes something like this: Never put in writing anything that you wouldn't want read in open court or by your mother,” concludes the article, written by Michael Simpson of the NEA's legal office. “Maybe it's time for an updated adage: Never put in electronic form anything that you wouldn't want viewed by a million people, including your colleagues, students, and supervisors – and your mother.”
No matter how many times I try to explain it, my students don't get the fact that their emails accessed from school are then stored on the school server, that emails sent from school are then stored on the server, and there just is not any such thing as a privacy right at school. Then there's the whole facebook idiocy: even pages marked "private" can be accessed and published all over the place. For teachers not to get this drives me crazy.