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Teachers are Humans too

Shellie Mortensen, Staff Writer

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Most people count on social media for plenty of things; promoting themselves or their business, a blog, to keep in touch with friends. But for one Utah teacher, using a social media account almost meant losing her job. Mindi Jensen, a teacher at North San Pete Middle School, was ridiculed and even threatened her job for her posts and updates on social media.

Under the Instagram name ‘Minscakes,’ Jensen posts self-promoting and bodybuilding pictures. Once students at her middle school found her account (which has no relation to her name) the little town of Moroni was in an uproar. Parent’s described her photos as ‘pornographic’ and ‘inappropriate’. The school then gave Jensen three choices: 1. Make her account private 2. Remove the photos or 3. Be fired. Jensen asks, “why are my rights being taken away and not the child’s right?”

Jensen told FOX 13 that the school board met to discuss the Instagram account. In this meeting the principal asked her if this account was really worth losing her job over. She said it was, and shortly after the meeting the principal reached out again and told her she would be keeping her job.

Unfortunately, Jensen isn’t the first teacher that has had to fight her school on an issue regarding social media; it is happening all over the United States. The teachers claim they are exercising their first amendment rights, most importantly freedom of speech. In the three cases that have been taken to court, all three defendants have lost not only the case, but their job as well.

Here are the three cases:

  1. In Connecticut, teacher Jeffery Spanierman was fired from his teaching job because of two conversations on Myspace with students, none of which were vulgar or inappropriate in any way. The federal court ruled that Spanierman’s termination didn’t violate the first amendment and that the comments could be seen as “disrupting school activities.”
  2. Tara Richardson, a mentor for beginning teacher in Washington, was demoted for comments made on a personal blog. Federal courts rejected her argument saying her personal comments interfered with her job because they “fatally undermined her ability to enter into confidential and trusting mentor relationships” with beginning teacher.
  3. Pennsylvania college senior Stacey Snyder was dismissed from her student- teaching job because of ‘unprofessional’ conduct on her Myspace page. Because she was unable to complete her student-teaching requirement she was forced to graduate with a major in English instead of Education. Federal courts found no first amendment violation and said her Myspace postings dealt only with personal matters, not issues of public concern.

The guidelines regarding teachers and social media lay in the gray area. A teacher in Newark expressed her feelings of wanting to ‘stab students’ and ‘pour hot coffee’ on them, and she was only given a written reprimand. No laws have been passed regarding teachers and social media. It is up to the school districts discretion what the extent of the teachers punishment is.

Information provided by:

http://www.nea.org/home/38324.htm

http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_26486972/teachers-and-social-media-trekking-treacherous-terrain

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