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Too Much Freedom of Speech or Too Much Money?


A Facebook/MySpace war being waged at Horace Mann, an elite private school in New York City populated by children of the rich and powerful, is raising questions that even lesser mortals have been grappling with. For example: Who has the right to control online teacher taunting? In lurid detail, New York magazine describes the disturbing Internet hijinks played on Web sites, including Mann’s own Facebook group page, by the school’s students and their powerful parents who protect them. The imbroglio erupted at the high school after students posted lewd and exploitive comments about their teachers (one referring to a faculty member as an “acid casualty” is about the only expletive suitable for printing here).

A confluence of factors—trustee children, their trustee parents, and administrators bending to trustee parents—have proven an unfortunate recipe for beset and powerless teachers who have been reading about themselves online. In turn, parents not happy with teachers reading their children’s Facebook pages have pushed back and hard—wielding board power and pushing teachers out, instead of having their children face consequences. At one faculty meeting, the head of the school allegedly told his staff that students would be punished, but then took teachers to task for engaging in “similar behavior.” “Your contracts are under review and you’re being watched by the kids," he reportedly said. Something they probably already knew.


Sound like the inmates are running the asylum. Like it or not, it's what you get when you promote 'there is no right or wrong, only my reality' premise. Now what do we do? Keep pretending the education system as it stands works? Given the popular culture as evidenced on television, if the parents don't act responsibly and with good character, what do you expect from the kids? Let's not forget, too, the parents are a product of this approach in education, as well as what's allowed on TV. Everyone's afraid of the p-c boogeyman. Nobody's accountable for fear of hurting feelings or esteem. Kids are full of self-esteem; it's correct guidance and discipling they're lacking, and that's to include the parents.

There are so many variables at work here, it's overwhelming . In fact, it will take God to fix it. Please.

I am wondering if there are legal considerations such as public slander. Perhaps the teachers need to hire a law firm to protect their rights as professionals and as individuals.

I agree whole heartedly with Susan, the example above is what we can all expect as our teaching future. I expect the same students who are being so disrespectful to their teachers online would be the first to call for the teachers' heads on platters if the situation were reversed. This story is another example of the old adage that having wealth does not automatically endow a person with knowledge, ethics, manners or simple respect. Is it any wonder that we have the mortgage meltdown, Enron and other corporate debuckles when these parents are the folks running corporate America?

Congress or at least state legislators must make some laws protecting everyone from internet harrassment. Our Bill of Rights does not protect the right of free speech if that speech harms another such as the much cited example of a person erroneously shouting, "Fire" in a crowded theater. A teacher's job and/or certifications depend upon his/her good reputation and good health and both can be harmed by malicious harrassment.

If America wants quality teachers and a quality education for our children, then teachers must receive quality protection for their bodies, minds and reputations. A harrassed teacher cannot do her/his best on the job.

Whatever happened to the time when children would be held accountable for their actions? The school is caving in to pressure from the trustee parents and modeling behavior that the trustee children will more than likely (eventually) repeat with their own children. How sad and very disturbing!

I believe they should hire a lawyer and sue the school for slander.

As an educator who has taught those suffering from 'afluenza' and poverty, bullying knows no bounds...and, let's all face it, that's what the power to harm others with insults, untruths, and distractions from learning really are.

The problem has no one single solution, but the first one is TO STOP READING the stuff in the first place. Writing or saying mean things about teachers probably happened with the first educator (only it was in Latin with horrilibus maximus magistra or something). Technology has taken what used to be graffiti on the walls and notes passed in class, and allowed most of society to choose to or lose the ability to "read the writing on the walls."

Part of being a model adult to kids who have nobody at home but a tv in an empty house or three butlers in the mansion, is learning that you are like nothing the kids have ever encountered. There is nothing I have encountered in all my years that says the best teachers have to be liked by everybody, though most of them are because they have learned to people handle.

Unless we are going to get kids through school to become lawyers, legal-ing the mess out of everybody isn't going to work, because nobody will know anything about law. Just watch our justice system at work now v. twenty years ago.

When the 'gossip' or trash from the internet becomes a threat to the educator's professional standing, the school administration should intervene immediately with the students and explain that having a problem with a teacher is one thing. Their concerns will be listened to however; they need a cease fire order with the lesson that slander and threatening behavior are treated with the utmost seriousness. Once the expectation and warning is out there, neither side has any reason for there to be any room for miscommunication.

No more discussion about the teacher. Period. Document everything. Spell out what the violation will have as consequence at the first discussion with the TEACHER included in the decision making process. Support all around. Kids are gonna screw up and be angry and say things that they shouldn't. We all have and will again. Teach from the experiences about how untruths can ruin people, including the slanderer...then, be professional as best as possible, realizing your life and paycheck depend on those who typically aren't old enough to shave, drive a car, still get Happy Meals, don't pay bills, and certainly don't think past the next day ;)

If the professional is indeed out of line or acting in some inappropriate way, it tends to catch up with them. Unfortunately, it is the good teachers who have just 'had it' with education and all the hoop jumping who are leaving a career that actually influences the future more than any one single group of individuals can.

Somehow, we've got to open the eyes of kids, parents, communities, and school folks from the top down that everybody from the bus drivers first thing in the morning to the custodial staff to the cafeteria workers to the librarians and school nurses and resource officers and counselors and teachers and administrators at all levels are ALL professionals. These aren't characters in the drama of 8:30-3:30, but people who have dedicated their lives to seeing young people have a life to live!

There's no place for trash in the school. You decide who puts it in the can in its proper place and who walks out the door, taking it with them to the dumpster or on them.

And for anybody who thinks that I think it's that simple, I'm with a crew of folks who have achieved status as hazardous material carriers from being in the business long enough to know to wear those cool protective suits!

As I have consistently said, until education is once again respected as a means to success by a significant majority of Americans, we will remain mired in less than successful schools.

While I agree that it is frustrating to deal with the mentality that the teacher has summers off and things. That is absolute stupidity and foolishness, and we know it.

Why don't we as the educated professionals not dignify the stereo type as whiners (not that anybody here was) and ignore that as a cop out for why things aren't right, and reach and change one child at a time in our classrooms. We do all have a collective HUGE voice, but the secret to success is to focus on the important stuff. Dialogue about consequences of hurting someone's feelings is a great idea. The example of teachers feeling unappreciated even as adults is wonderful. People are always writing in the paper about how we are paid too much or have summers off or aren't making high enough test scores or the team isn't winning. Those things are hurtful.

Toughness is good, but words can hurt.

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