Saturday, December 10, 2011

Teacher ridicules 7 year old student on Facebook

Originally published 4/05/11 on lubbockonline.com/glasshouses

Andre Yoskowitz at Afterdawn.com reports that a teacher at a school in Chicago faces discipline for making fun of a students hair on Facebook. This was bad enough when I assumed it was a teacher making fun of a middle or high school student. But it wasn't. The student was a 7 year old who asked her mom to do her hair like a picture in a magazine. It looked cute, so mom tied Jolly Rancher candies to her daughters hair. Other teachers complimented the child for her colorful hairstyle, so why should a teacher wanting a picture make a 7 year old suspicious? The teacher posted the picture on her Facebook with some rude comments. Inevitably, someone who knew the parent and was friended with the teacher saw the photo and the comments. The parent complained and the teacher is facing discipline.

In one sense this is such a normal Facebook occurrence it's not even worth mentioning. But this has a few unusual - and to me troubling - elements. There's been a lot of talk about cyber-bullying lately. Most cases have been between children, usually of similar age. This is a case of an adult, a teacher, making fun of a 7 year old. A teacher should know better. Of course, this isn't the first time teachers have been burned by their Facebook postings. Another teacher damaged her career last week - a first grade teacher who allegedly referred to her students as "future criminals" and said she felt like a warden.

The problem with Facebook isn't that teachers speak their minds - although speaking without filters is almost always a problem - but that they think they're speaking in a walled garden where they control who sees it. Facebook does nothing to correct this error, talking about concern for users privacy even as new privacy settings make it harder to keep things private on Facebook.

Edit: Changed title to better reflect story