Monday, October 8, 2012

Teacher Suspended Over Facebook Post

Pages and pages of text

Gaston County (NC) High School English teacher Shanna Sigmon-Moore was suspended with pay for allegedly posting and commenting about student's work on Facebook.  According to Education Week, Sigmon-Moore took photos of three students' papers, highlighted their spelling a grammatical errors and posted them to the site.  When others commented on the papers she responded, "See what I go through everyday?"

I bet her principal had the same thought.

The post wasn't public but was posted to a select group of friends one of whom, I'm guessing, didn't like what she read and turned Sigmon-Moore in to the administration.

How many times do I have to say it?

Teachers need to be extremely careful about what they post online.  This teacher not only violated the trust of her students and the community but may have violated FERPA laws as well.  The division was correct in suspending her during the investigation (as of this writing there was no update on Sigmon-Moore's employment status).

If you find yourself involved in a similar situation there are several steps you can take to mitigate the impact on instruction and restore community trust -

  1. Document the questionable post by printing the entire page with footers enabled.  In Explorer the footer will note the web address and the date printed.   I also like to take a screen shot of the post and save it electronically.  
  2. Ask the teacher to remove the post and explain why you are doing so ... "Mr. Teacher, this post violates student privacy and has eroded the trust your students and parents have in you; I am asking you to remove the post so that we can begin to restore that trust.  Additionally, the post is in violation of division policy and while there is a possibility that this may effect your employment, removing the post could help to lessen those effects later."
  3. Seek permission from senior leadership to remove the teacher from the classroom during the investigation.
  4. Let the parents of the students know what is going on - better they find out from you then to read about it themselves on Facebook.
  5. Follow division policies for employment action.  Depending on the severity of the offence termination may be appropriate - in this case, I would likely recommend a written reprimand or disciplinary probation depending on her past employment record.  If student names were disclosed, which I don't think they were in this case, I would recommend termination. 

You may also be thinking that a revision of division social media policies would be needed after an incident like this  - however, as long as teachers understand that all division policies apply to online postings and behaviors you should be covered policy-wise.

Here are some resources to help your teachers along:

Photo Credit - (CC) ilovebutter (no real name given)

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