You are a new teacher. Within the first few months, you begin to feel that two of your students do not like you and that they may be writing unacceptable things about you on their social media sites. As more students continue to discuss what they are reading on these students’ Facebooks, you begin to feel embarrassed and helpless because you have been told there is very little you can do with regards to having the Facebook postings removed.
After all…this is a form of free speech and the First Amendment of the Constitution protects that speech no matter how negative it might be towards you. You begin to ask yourself…what are your rights whenever it comes to truth and justice?
There have been several court cases in various states throughout the nation that have challenged whether a student has the right to post false claims and hurtful remarks about a teacher or administrator. In the most recent cases, the First Amendment has been used to declare that what students do at home and away from school cannot be punished by the schools. Parents are to be the ones who decide what their child should receive as far as consequences, if any, when such a posting is discovered by the school teacher and/or administrator.
In two different rulings, parents publicly stated that they had disciplined their children for the acts they had committed. One parent said “I punished her for that…I’m the one who should have punished her.” (http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110615/us_nm/us_schools_speech) However, what do educators do whenever parents do not discipline their sons and daughters following situations as described above?
One particular journalist wrote that “when speech is merely offensive, and taking place outside of school hours and property, principals and teachers should ignore it—and think of it as the price we pay for living in a free country.” (http://www.edweek.org/forums/education-forums_current-events_mocking-teachers-online-students-right_.0?cmp=ENL-TU-CMTY)
To completely ignore a situation in which a student is harming one’s reputation with false statements and derogatory remarks could be very challenging. The question becomes…where does the responsibility of the school begin and end? It appears that the courts are ruling that the jurisdiction of the schools cannot continue into the homes once the student leaves the school premises.
The key to insuring that a teacher’s reputation is admirable links with the way the teacher earns respect from the students. In many circumstances, when a student has written negative remarks about a teacher, the teacher who is respected by the other students will still have a reputation that is quite good. Other students recognize what is truth and what is slanderous. This holds true for what parents, who are involved in the education of their children, may think about a teacher as well.
Students who are studying to be teachers must strive to learn how they can earn the respect of their students. Developing a positive student-teacher relationship is the goal which should be set and reached. Possibly, by building that relationship, fewer students will be prone to write offensive remarks about their teachers and more students will state the positives regarding what their teachers have done for them throughout their school lives.
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Originally posted on Donna Hupe’s blog on the Saint Vincent College website.
Opinions and views are her own, and not that of the College.