SmackDown: Should Teachers Be Allowed to Blog About Their Students?
Filed under: Opinions
Blogging About Your Students Is Not a Fireable Offense
by Amy Hatch
After venting about her students online, a teacher could be expelled from her job.
Natalie Munroe was escorted out of Central Bucks East High School last week after some students discovered what Munroe thought was a private blog.
The teacher says she never thought to protect her website with a password -- after all, her only readers were friends and family, and the majority of her posts dealt with her private life. But a brief series of personal essays on the state of education and her high school English students set the suburban Philadelphia school abuzz last week.
In her posts, Munroe frequently used profanity and suggested that some of her students dressed like street-walkers, over-estimated their intellectual prowess, and called them "rat-like" and "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners."
Now, Munroe is in danger of being fired for publishing her opinions online, PhillyBurbs.com reports, despite the fact that her lawyer, Steve Rovner, tells the news organization the Central Bucks school district does not have an "Internet policy."
Firing Munroe would be wrong, plain and simple.
Was what she did naive? Yes. The Internet is a public forum, after all. Was it indiscreet? Perhaps. But was it against the law? No.
What Munroe did, in fact, was her fundamental right as a United States citizen. She exercised her First Amendment right to express any opinion, no matter how unpopular, unpleasant or vile.
The Internet has opened a whole new frontier when it comes to the public expression of our opinions. Self-publishing has given rise to a whole new generation of voices, voices that otherwise may have never been heard. Voices that would have been otherwise disenfranchised. Voices that brought into the sunlight issues that were previously buried in the dark.
Take Heather Armstrong, another blogger who was fired for sharing her opinions about her employer on her uber-popular blog "Dooce."
Armstrong also used her blog as a forum to write about her private battle with depression, which landed her in the hospital for several days when her daughter was just an infant. Her willingness to open up about that experience helped raise the profile of clinical and post-partum depression, especially among the population that often experiences it -- mothers.
As a parent, I completely understand the instinct toward outrage. Would I be furious if a teacher insulted my child in a public online forum? You bet your bippy I would.
But as a journalist who makes her living from writing online, I shudder at the thought that Munroe might be terminated from her job for expressing her personal opinions on her personal blog.
And, let's be frank: Our educational system really is in crisis. Why is it so terrible that someone who sees it from the trenches should share her concerns and questions, profanity and acerbic commentary aside?
If Munroe is fired, a dangerous precedent will be set. The Internet is a powerful medium, one that certainly has its dark corners, but also one that has the potential to create conversations about subjects that affect us in the most fundamental ways.
Silencing those voices? Now, that would be worthy of expulsion.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.