Due to the nature of my previous posts this week I thought it would interesting to discuss the notion of teachers who use social media sites and the catastrophic consequences when their private posts are not so private after all! The rise of Facebook is undeniable and according to jeffbullas.com one in every 13 people on earth is on Facebook, this is a phenomenal number and with a selection of privacy settings it is easy to believe you could post anything in the safety of your own little Facebook “family”. But, as this post will highlight nothing posted on the internet will ever truely be private. Certain professionals should be careful about what they write or share on social media sites – especially teachers. June Talvitie-Siple a high school teacher from Massachusetts believing her Facebook posts were private made the detrimental decision to post her views about her students on her Facebook page – ranting that they were “germ bags” and parents “arrogant” and “snobby” the teacher was reported and forced to resign. EDIT: After posting this I was contacted by June Talvitie Siple who said my interpretation of her comments on Facebook were false. I then gave June Siple an opportunity to get her story across; this is what she said (completely unedited)
“What you wrote was two snippets or quotes taken out of entire sentences and then placing then in an entirely different context. I have never revealed the full story and may not ever. But even without the full story what I wrote in my comments on your blog still stand. I did not refer to my students in an intentional derogatory manner. I simply joke about I was constantly sick due to continued exposure to my students. I jokingly referred to them as germ bags. We are all germ bags in the literal sense. We all carry germs around and share them with each other. I lamented that I had been sick for 6 weeks with three different infections, including pink eye. I was on my third antibiotic and eye salves. Would it have been more PC to refer to my students a disease vectors? Saying that I called my students germ bags out of context was and is so damaging to me in so many ways, but that is exactly what certain individuals in the community and teachers union wanted to do to discredit me.
And yes I referred to the community as arrogant and snobby, and I have not apologized. I regret that in a fit of extreme anger and frustration with a few that I referred to an entire community as having these nasty attributes. However, we all make comprehensive comments in situations like this. When was the last time you said to someone, “You always…” when you know that no one always does anything. We over generalize without qualification.
I had my privacy settings on FB set so that only my friends and family could see my comments before Dec 2009 when FB changed their privacy policies, and arrogantly and rudely reverted everyone’s settings to viewable by everyone. I know this because my students had tried to get into my account and joked in one of my classes that it was “shut down.”. I never noticed the change by FB. Politics in the school district was so thick you could cut the tension with a knife. I was more than a teacher. I was an administrator 60% and a teacher 40% of the time. I was not a member if the union and my position was opposed by the union. It was my first year in the district and I walked into a hornet’s nest without warning. I was hated the minute I stepped on campus and the union executive council went out of their way to discredit me every day during the entire year. They solicited parents to help by feeding lies to them. Did it ever occur to anyone what those parents were doing snooping the Internet to find anything to ruin my credibility? Yes, I made a mistake saying anything of any substance on the Internet. Yes, I made the mistake of trusting FB privacy, but why would anyone care what I wrote in FB unless they were looking for trouble?
The story here is far more complicated than anyone has reported because I have tried to accept my mistakes without taking down anyone else in the administration or my students’ parents. But the reality is I lost more than my job. I lost my career, my livelihood, my self-esteem, and much, much more. All over two comments taken out of context.“
Perhaps a detrimental mistake, the same could not be said for Christine Rubino a Brooklyn teacher who thought she was safe to vent her anger behind a private Facebook page. Following the death of a 12 year old girl who drowned during a class trip to the beach Christine ranted “After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class. I hate their guts” a fellow teacher and Facebook “friend” saw the post and reported it – Rubino was later suspended. A question of privacy comes into play after all Rubino’s page was meant only for her friends, but to post such hurtful and insensitive comments from a person who is suppose to be an intellect and role model is, in my opinion unacceptable. So, still think your Facebook posts are private?
Click here to read more stories about disgraced teachers using Facebook.