Facebook misused as a forum for teacher criticism

December 15, 2010 — by Alex Ju and Elijah Yi

An emergency medical technician for a Connecticut-based ambulance service was fired in November for ridiculing her supervisor on Facebook. The worker’s termination ignited a national controversy, with the National Labor Relations Board deeming the supervisor’s actions illegal. An administrative judge is slated to hear the case on Jan. 25.

Breaches of privacy in the corporate world are inevitable byproducts of the proliferation of social networking users; however, similar issues have arisen from student use of these outlets to criticize teachers and school employees.

One student attending a high school in Florida was suspended from her school in 2007 for creating a Facebook page that criticized her English teacher. Along with a suspension, the school proceeded to drop her from an advanced placement English class into a regular English class. Later, the girl filed a lawsuit against the school and won.

The First Amendment does protects students’ free speech about teachers and administrators via Facebook, Twitter or any other forms of communication. However, any content deemed threatening or disruptive to the educational process can evoke the administration to intervene.
The First Amendment allows students to express themselves rather freely, including harsh, critical comments. However, just because they can make these remarks doesn’t mean they necessarily should.

Through gossip and other remarks, a false image can be made of a teacher even before being in his or her class. Some teachers may be labeled “hard,” while others may be deemed “teachers that don’t teach,” placing unfair labels based on gossip and not experience.

Usually, however, there are few consequences for discussing teachers online, as most comments aren’t so dramatically severe as to become an administrative issue. Ultimately, whether or not a student chooses to ridicule their teachers using their Facebook status or a tweet depends solely on their personal sense of right and wrong.

While it is not unusual for students to be unhappy with their teachers, it is not necessary to vent using Facebook, which allows for all friends, and often the teacher in question, to see the what has been posted. If nothing else, it is insensitive for a student to go to those lengths to make fun of a teacher. It may also not be in the best interest of the student to be known for criticizing teachers.

If a student has a serious issue with an educator, it is an issue that should be handled with the administration so that a solution can be reached. An alternative could be to cope with the teacher’s style of teaching, (which is usually the foundation for the criticism) or to transfer out of the class. Sharing one’s personal issue by ranting to peers achieves nothing.

Most of the comments are merely petty complaints, often with unnecessarily harsh, sardonic qualifiers attached. Such posts are of absolutely no value. Far from constructive criticism, they serve only to insult.