Do Teachers Have More Responsibility on Facebook?

We hold school teachers to higher standards across not only their performance, but in their social appearance both in and out of school.  Throughout history, teachers were looked upon as role models.  In today’s society, the retiring rate of older teachers is upon us and younger ones are entering the workforce.  With this comes advancements in technology, including social networking.

So how do we relate their personal, out of school (offline) time against their school time?  What are the standards for their usage and participation in social networks both in and out of school?

Ashley Payne, a teacher in Burrow County, Georgia has become our level set in recent days.  You can search and find many resources on the story, but in summary from them all:

  • She worked for the district for two years
  • She had a Facebook page
  • She had pictures of beer and/or wine shown
  • There was some expletive also shown

It was also stated, in quotes from her, that this was taken in Europe on a trip other staff was also participating in.  She was not seen physically drinking in any of the pictures either.

“I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to Italy and had wine. I went to the Temple Bar District of Dublin and drank some alcohol there like any normal adult would,” said Payne.

 

Payne and her friends took pictures at various places across Europe. A few pictures showed her with a glass of beer or wine.

“They’re not even of me drinking the drinks and I don’t look like I’m intoxicated in any way or doing anything provocative or inappropriate,” Payne said. “I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to Italy and had wine. I went to the Temple Bar District of Dublin and drank some alcohol there like any normal adult would,” said Payne.

 

Payne and her friends took pictures at various places across Europe. A few pictures showed her with a glass of beer or wine.

 

“They’re not even of me drinking the drinks and I don’t look like I’m intoxicated in any way or doing anything provocative or inappropriate,” Payne said.

So where does the line blur between the personal life of an educator and the professional appearance?  Should all teachers be required to never post on social networks?  Should all teachers have stricter privacy settings on who can see their data?  Should school districts have well defined polices on participation in social networking?

Another blog posting  from AJC goes into more detail on the expletive utilized, stating that the teacher mentioned her attending a bingo function that happened to have the “B word” in the title of one of the games, which she found funny and posted.

Without going into her suing the district and why (see article above), apparently the school had a policy which did address the exact reason she was questioned about the content.

Barrow has a policy that states employees can be investigated and disciplined for postings on Web sites that contain provocative photographs, sexually explicit messages, use of alcohol, drugs or anything students are prohibited from doing. And the policy allows for termination for such transgressions

If a teacher is of legal age, does the district have the right to compare an activity of a teacher outside of school against what a student can legally do (alcohol consumption) at any time?  I would say that is not a term of employment as long as the teacher does not indulge before arriving or during employment, which includes school activities.

Teachers have an expectation of privacy except when sharing data across the social networks.  Deciding on whom to share data with and what shows in your public profile was something she clearly did not anticipate.  Also, allowing people to tagyou in photos (see our other posts on Facebook privacy) could expose your information beyond the reach of your immediate trusted circle.

Protecting your online identity is more than making sure no one speaks negatively of you.  It is also about controlling what information is shown or shared and how it could adversely affect you in employment, schooling and even relationships later.