Teachers and Facebook: Privacy vs. standards

An attorney for a suspended Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher says she never intended for the public to view negative comments she made about students on Facebook. But the case is now part of a national debate that pits teachers’ rights to free expression against how communities expect them to behave, reports the Charlotte Observer. "This is a new frontier in education, where technological and social norms are outpacing law and policy," said Tom Hutton, an attorney for the National School Boards Association. Attorney John Gresham, 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. District 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. District officials plan to send a memo to their 19,000 employees reminding them that web postings that can be viewed by the public should be appropriate. The district announced earlier this week that 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…

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