Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teacher Loses Face, Job After Facebook Rant Against Students

Facebook logoImage via WikipediaPatterson, N.J. elementary school teacher Jennifer O'Brien, who has been on administrative leave since March 2010, because of a derisive comment she posted about her students to her 300 Facebook buddies, should lose her tenured post, Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass has ruled.

As reported by Forbes via the Mobiledia tech blog, Judge Bass wrote O'Brien "demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the world in which her students live." Following a day last year in which one of her first-grade minions allegedly struck her and another student purportedly stole money from her, O'Brien posted on Facebook: "I'm not a teacher--I'm a warden for future criminals!"

Her virtual outburst sparked protests outside her school by parents and concerns by school administrators that the comment may have been racially tinged.  ("TUOL" is a N.J. native and can confirm that low-income, crime-ridden Patterson is not considered a vacation escape.) Judge Bass' ruling may cause hand-wringing among the social media free speecharati, but a body of case law supports the notion that although O'Brien has a First Amendment right to vent against her pupils, she has no corresponding right to be a teacher when her speech, which was not political in nature, embarrasses her employer.
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