I’ve noted before how social-networking data — from sites such as MySpace and Facebook — have been used to gather evidence in trials against jurors and defendants, in divorce cases, against employees (which can lead to lawsuits), applicants to colleges and graduate schools, politicians and high school students. We’ve seen it affect applicants to jobs in the United States and abroad. Recently, the Wall Street Journal noted that some employees are fighting back when their employers attempt to punish them for comments made on social-networking sites.
Now, NPR reports on problems that teachers have had with Facebook and other social networking-site postings:
The new and ever-changing world of social networking has blurred the lines between private and public, work and personal, friend and stranger. It’s becoming a particular challenge for teachers who can quickly rile students and parents by posting comments or photos online.
In some cases, teachers have been fired for statements they’ve made on Facebook, which is raising free speech issues. […]
John Palfrey of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society says there have always been teachers who say dumb things, but now social media amplifiy those comments.
“There’s a really simple concept here, which is [that] the nature of a conversation is changing in a digital age and the consequences of saying something that’s dumb are much greater,” Palfrey says. “People can get fired for [saying] something that otherwise would have been completely and quickly forgotten.” […]
[New Jersey teachers union spokesman] Steve Wollmer says the union suggests a variety of policies that should be followed when teachers use social media.
“Don’t ever friend or follow your students on Facebook or Twitter, never post during work hours or using work materials such as a school computer, and certainly never post anything about your job online, especially about students,” Wollmer says. “I think that’s where some of these teachers have found themselves in difficult situations.”
Read the full story to learn about specific legal cases concerning teachers and Facebook postings that caused conflicts.