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FaceBook Can Get You Fired

Proving to be as hot a topic in February as it was last month, the inability of due legal process to keep up with the pace of online technology gets another boost into the modern dilemma charts as research is published including examples of teachers and educators being fired because of the content of their FaceBook pages.

Once again, the rights of privacy (most recently forming the core of proposed new EU laws determining 'the right to be forgotten') and the right to 'free speech' (although as usual, there is some confusion in the public mind, which does seem almost deliberately blinkered to the differences between free speech as practised whilst speaking, and publishing via the broadcast medium which is Online Social Media). Somewhere in all of this is the gradual realization that the internet is overdue a set of internationally-binding laws and codes of practice.

In the interim, we have the ridiculous actions of school boards of management hiring and firing on the basis of staff social media profiles. We also have the equally ridiculous actions of teachers and educators publicly sharing images of themselves online which they would fully accept as being detrimental to their careers if the same images were printed in a local newspaper. And students conducting the type of organized harassment and bullying which would justly see them punished were it to happen in a physical setting. Laws will come eventually, and most likely at the public's panicked behest. In the interim, we have suggested codes of behaviour. This latest one from the University of Cincinnati

Facebook can get you fired: UC research reveals the perils of social networking for school employees

School administrators are facing a growing dilemma resulting from social networking that goes beyond preventing cyber-bullying among students. They're also faced with balancing the rights of privacy and free speech of educators with what should be the appropriate behavior of teachers as role models.

Janet Decker, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor in UC's Educational Leadership Program, reveals more on the dilemma in an article published in the January issue of Principal Navigator, a professional magazine by the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators.

a large number of educators have been fired for Internet activity

Decker explains that a large number of educators have been fired for Internet activity. She says that some teachers have been dismissed for behavior such as posting a picture of themselves holding a glass of wine.

"Despite the evolving issues, the courts have not provided extensive guidance for administrators," writes Decker. "Part of the difficulty is that technology advances at a quicker pace than legal precedent, leaving school employees and administrators unsure of their legal responsibilities."

Decker's article highlights cases that have landed in court as a result of school policies on social networking that "were not clear or effective." The article also examines the law surrounding sexual harassment or abuse of students and freedom of speech for public employees and employee privacy.

"In general, it is important to understand that school employees are expected to be role models both inside and outside of school – even while on Facebook," concludes Decker.

Decker's article features 10 recommendations as she encourages school administrators to implement technology policies for school employees, including the following, [slightly sinister – Ed.] guidelines:

. Ensure your policies conform to state and federal law.

. Amend policies as the law evolves. Much of the law related to technology is in flux. What is legal today may not be tomorrow.

Source: University of Cincinnati


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