More Internet Problems for Teachers

The Internet continues to be a stumbling block for some educators. Earlier this year, a teacher was suspended for disparaging comments on her blog. This week, three new stories appeared on my radar screen.

The first involves a teacher who was fired for viewing pornographic images on a school computer. What is interesting in this case is the fact that the evidence showed that the teacher made an unfiltered Google image search on the word “blondes” for around one minute. A one minute lapse in judgement was all it took for this teacher to lose his job.

The second is the case of a teacher who was dismissed for posting sexually explicit solicitations, including images of himself on Craigslist. His name was not mentioned in the advertisements, however someone who knew him saw them and turned him in. What I found interesting about that story was his stated expectation that the children in his district would obey the 18+ age requirement for viewing the ads, as well as his assumption that parents would be monitoring child internet usage. The judge in the case said the teacher’s “public posting of his pornographic ad is inconsistent with teaching middle-school students,” and that his testimony “shifted responsibility to parents and students” to avoid the site.

The last is the story of a former prostitute turned teacher who was fired when she revealed her past in a Huffington Post article and the mainstream news media ran with the story. She doesn’t explicitly mention her career as a teacher in the article, however her byline mentions her by name and that she is an educator. It didn’t take long to put two and two together and have her wind up on the cover of the New York Post.

We live in an age of unprecedented transparency. I continue to be amazed at how much people are willing to reveal about themselves. Recently, we had an industry advisory committee meeting to discuss our curriculum and the current state of the industry our students will be working in. This issue of transparency and indiscretion came up in our conversation.

One hospital IT manager described how they routinely search Facebook and other online venues on prospective hires, and anything suspicious is an automatic “no thanks.” Playing the devil’s advocate, I asked if it wasn’t being a bit hypocritical when we are judgmental about the shenanigans of young people, just because we find some evidence online. After all, we all probably have things in our past that we are less than proud of, only now we live in a world that makes these things easier to know.

His reply was that if a person hasn’t sense enough to protect their own privacy, how would they protect the private data of the patients in the hospital where he works? An excellent point, I decided.

However, I still wonder how far we will continue to take this transparency, and our expectations of a perfect online persona? And does this expectation tend to curtail the participation of teachers online?

What do you think? Should an ex-prostitute teacher be fired when she’s been found out? After all, she’s reformed her life and trying to make an honest living. Would it make any difference if she were more remorseful? She seems to be unapologetic and without regrets regarding her past.

Or what about the teacher posting pornographic advertisements? Is his private life his personal business? Does it matter that he was anonymously posting these, and someone else turned him in when they recognized him?

The first guy was misbehaving on school property and simply should have known better. The other two involve a teacher’s activities outside of school. Was the internet responsible for their downfall? If a teacher gets involved in questionable activities, but steers clear of the internet, do you think they are less likely to be held accountable? In this digital world we live in, I am doubtful that anyone can easily keep deep, dark secrets anymore.

2 thoughts on “More Internet Problems for Teachers

  1. Bill,

    I always love your articles …

    I think the most important issue here is remembering it’s not the internet causing these problems… it’s bad judgement.

    The internet just facilitates getting caught faster.

    May only reason for emphasizing this is… every time one of these stories gets exposure, school districts become more apprehensive about allowing digital communications to become a part of our childrens education.

    Every example listed above could still have been committed, exposed and the teacher suffering consequences if it had been 30 years ago in print.

  2. Hey Cody,

    I agree with your apprehension in regards to these stories. People tend to read into them much that isn’t really there. Because it’s still new and we don’t fully understand it, we’re still nervous about the internet.

    I’m usually inclined to be forgiving & not hold grudges. The prostitute/teacher is unrepentant. She doesn’t see anything wrong with her past. For me, this is different than if she were embarrassed or sorry for her past. However, it is her past. There’s nothing to indicate that she’s involved in it now, but it does raise questions about her judgement.

    Some of this reminds me of those quaint old fashioned rules for teachers. Double standards for teachers is nothing new.

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