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When Will Teachers Learn? Don't Talk About Students On Facebook!

By Monica Bielanko |

Update your status at your own risk, teachers.

Another teacher has lost her job for posting not so nice things about her students on Facebook.

This time, I don’t feel bad for her. We’ve heard these stories before so you’d think that by now teachers would consider Facebook off-limits when venting about their jobs. Even if your page is private, you never know which one of your “friends” will take a screen shot and report you. Someone is always watching. Always.

As Yahoo reports, a first-grade teacher learned that lesson the hard way. A New Jersey administrative law judge has ruled that Jennifer O’Brien should lose her tenured job for writing that she was a “warden for future criminals” on Facebook earlier this year.

The Paterson teacher posted her remark to 333 friends on March 28. But it was forwarded (DUH!) and several parents saw it. O’Brien, who plans to appeal the ruling, testified that she wrote the post in exasperation because several students kept disrupting her lessons and one boy had recently hit her. Nonetheless, the judge called O’Brien’s conduct “inexcusable.”

The state education commissioner now has 45 days to accept, reject or modify the decision regarding Jennifer O’Brien.

What do you think? Is the judge’s ruling appropriate? If you saw your child’s teacher wrote a similar post on Facebook how would you react?

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About Monica Bielanko

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Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “When Will Teachers Learn? Don't Talk About Students On Facebook!

  1. goddess says:

    Personally, I don’t think teachers give up free speech rights for the career, so no, I think the judge’s ruling is way out of line.

  2. jeneria says:

    Teachers shouldn’t be held to some sort stratospheric standard that others aren’t held to. Teachers make shit wages, have to deal more with raising kids than teaching kids, and now you want to deny them a life outside of their job? That’s ridiculous. Why are teachers expected to be saints when parents can say what they want about whomever they want (children, adult, or teacher)? Chances are a number of her friends are teachers as well and they appreciate what she’s saying.
    .
    Parents need to get over themselves and their “precious” little snowflakes.

  3. Little Frogs says:

    Teachers are required not to break confidentiality. That is if a teacher said, “Jonah is such a spaz ’cause he never does his work and his parents are getting divorced” But saying, “I feel like a warden for future criminals” does not break confidentiality.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I’m pretty sure teachers are not bound by confidentiality. But, like any other job, you DON’T TALK ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET. You just don’t. Especially when it involves minors (just because that’s a bit effed up). As a social worker, I am bound by confidentiality. But, even when I worked in an office job, I didn’t talk about my job on the internet, because someone can decide that you’re making the company/other employees/the clients look bad, and they can kick your ass to the curb. And when the “clients” are minors and their parents see someone complaining about them on the internet (also, calling herself a warden makes me concerned how she’s addressing problematic situations in the classroom), then, yeah. I see where someone would get upset.
    By the way, I come from a family of teachers, and I know how hard it can get. I have nothing but utter sympathy and respect for teachers. But you do not discuss your job, and especially your clients (the students), on the internet. End of story.

  5. Manjari says:

    I don’t think she should lose her job. I don’t think it was a good idea to post it on FB, but I don’t think she should get fired.

  6. Jackie says:

    I disagree with that decision. She shouldn’t lose her job over that specific comment. People make flippant remarks about their jobs all the time. A very harsh overreaction in my opinion.

  7. jeneria says:

    Elizabeth,
    You are bound by professional confidentiality as are doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists. Teachers are not bound, but that’s beside the point. She didn’t name names, she vented in general terms. The digital world is the world now, there’s no delineation. And again, reading the insults, slurs, and slanders that I have by parents aimed at teachers along with the threatening comments, horrible insults, and general bitching that students aim at teachers on Facebook, I see nothing wrong with a teacher vocalizing frustration. Sure, maybe she should limit her friends on Facebook (I’m a professor I don’t friend colleagues nor do I friend students and yeah, I complain on my Facebook) but that’s really the only thing she did wrong.
    .
    I’m sick of people expecting teachers to live to standards that pretty much try prevent them from having lives. Teachers are not monks and nuns.

  8. goddess says:

    With the place in our society that the internet and social networking sites now hold, I disagree with the standards you set forth there Elizabeth.
    As long as no identifying information for any individual is given, you are restricting her free speech rights to censure such broad statements- in ANY industry. People are giving far too much power to employers to restrict and ban legal activities in their off time.

  9. Little Frogs says:

    Teachers ARE bound by confidentiality. I am legally not allowed to discuss anything which violates student privacy with anyone not directly involved in their education (parents, their other teachers, administration, counselors, and special ed dept if applicable).

    Her statement did not mention names nor did it describe students or violate any student’s privacy.

  10. jeneria says:

    As a professor, I know I can’t divulge anything academic or performance related about a student to parents, employers, etc under FERPA (1976). I’m not sure what the rules are at the K-12 level, I imagine similar except parents can get information. In any case, as others have pointed out, she didn’t use names nor did she give specifics.

  11. James Kelly says:

    Teachers have to put up with unruly students, some who have no respect for themselves or others. This teacher was venting her frustrations. I have the highest respect for teachers. When teachers are attacked either verbally or physically from students; no one does anything. The school does not protect the students or the teachers. Sure programs look good on paper but no so good in real life. This article will at best discourage anyone from becoming a teacher. Many teachers will and have asked the question is this really worth it?

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