Blue Serials (2/8/20) - Social Media Edition
Happy chocolate-covered stuff!
I suppose this is – by default – the Valentine’s Day Edition of Blue Serials this month.
I’ll be honest. This is NOT one of my favorite holidays. It seems contrived and completely driven by guilt, expectations, and consumerism. It also makes it REALLY hard to get into any decent restaurants for several days before and after.
I mean, I’m glad you’re SO IN LOVE, people – but I was wanting an apple pecan salad, dammit!
Since it is the time of the year for celebrating dysfunctional love, however, I will be offering you a few Blue Cereal-approved love songs, each with a tainted twist. Don’t worry, however – there’s still plenty of education and educational news to discuss this week.
Are You Sure That’s How Karma Works?
A high school principal in Camas, Washington, is in hot water for a Facebook post made in response to news of Kobe Bryant's death:
"Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today,"
Principal Liza Sejkora of Camas High School (Go Papermakers!) was put on leave and later resigned, despite having deleted the post once she learned how many others had died in the crash.
In response, students at the high school organized a walk-out, which was apparently approved by administration as long as they agreed to stay in the building while leaving. Nothing is more “public school administration” than asking students to go through the motions of socio-political engagement without actually doing it. It’s like letting them cut school as long as they do it in class and keep up with the work assigned that day and don’t disrupt others, or having students work together to develop classroom rules and policies as long as they end up with the same 12 already on the laminated posters from last year.
In the district’s defense, they were partly concerned about the death threats and promises of retaliatory violence against the school due to Sejkora’s comments. The only thing more American in the 21st century than social media outrage is the predictable number of people who want to literally kill you and everyone you know for it – and tell you about it, repeatedly.
But hey – good people on both sides, amiright?
Whatever the school’s safety concerns, it turns out you simply can’t control the moral outrage of small-town white teenagers who are practically Canadian. They left the building anyway and milled around just outside for a bit.
Turns out was pretty cold, which kept indignation to a minimum, but they nevertheless took a few minutes to chant “Kobe! Kobe!” and wave an American flag in order to demonstrate their reflective analysis of the complicated dynamics of the situation and explore the tension between the First Amendment and the realities of public school policies and politics.
It’s a legitimately complicated issue, although the moment the community outrage machine was activated, Doctor Sejkora’s fate was sealed and neither statutes nor reality were of concern any longer. Plus, she should have known better. Setting aside whatever Kobe Bryant did or didn’t do, is it genuinely possible to pay the slightest attention to American politics, entertainment, and industry and still believe that doing horrible things to people – even sexual assault – might hurt your power or prestige?
There's far more risk of being demonized and losing your job over the faux outrage of a few teenagers and their bored parents. I’ve watched it happen too many times. It's surprising I haven't grown cyncial or bitter over it.
Are You Sure That’s How Twitter Works?
Doctor Sejkora isn’t the first educator to find herself in trouble over social media posts. The only truly surprising thing is that teachers still don’t recognize when they’re putting themselves in precarious employment circumstances. And it’s not just the few who are against rape – it covers the political spectrum:
A Fort Worth, Texas, teacher was fired just this past June for multiple Tweets petitioning President Trump for assistance. My personal favorites were “Anything you can do to remove the illegals from Fort Worth would be greatly appreciated,” followed by her home phone and cell numbers. She apparently didn’t understand how Twitter works – what with it being so new and unknown and barely used in 2019 – and believed her tweets were private merely because they were addressed to @realDonaldTrump. “I need protection from recrimination should I report it to the authorities but I do not know where to turn… Texas will not protect whistleblowers. The Mexicans refuse to honor our flag.”
It’s weird that there’s no record of him stepping up to help her. He’s usually so loyal and self-sacrificing for those who throw themselves on the fire to support him.
In Clark’s defense, the President can say whatever he likes on Twitter without repercussions. Then again, he was born rich, white, and male. Georgia Clark is only one of those three – and thus, her actions have consequences. Still, it’s a wonder she doesn’t have her own show on Fox or a post in the President’s cabinet by now. Maybe I’ll tweet them about it and see what they can do...
Are You Sure That’s How Catholicism Works?
It’s not just public schools. A teacher at Bishop England High School was let go – not by being fired, but by simply not having her contract removed – for her passionate defense of a woman’s “right to choose” on social media.It turns out Catholics are traditionally pro-life. Who knew?
She in turn sued the school for violating her First Amendment rights, despite having signed a contract agreeing not to do stuff like that.
Teachers accepting jobs at Bishop England sign contracts agreeing to speak publicly and to act in accordance with Catholic beliefs, regardless of whether they are Catholic, to aid in the “intellectual and spiritual development of students according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.”
Oops. And all the times I just clicked “I Agree” so I could move on with my life…
Are You Sure That’s How MySpace Works?
The examples of educators getting in trouble for social media behavior are endless, and it’s not a new issue. Seems to me it was somewhat more understandable a decade ago that many teachers were unclear what they could and couldn’t get away with on social media. As reported in this 2010 article from the National Education Association, the problem goes back as far as – wait for it – MySpace:
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch ran an exposé entitled, “Teachers’ Saucy Web Profiles Risk Jobs.” One 25-year-old female bragged on her MySpace site about being “sexy” and “an aggressive freak in bed.” Another confessed that she recently got drunk, took drugs, went skinny-dipping, and got married.
Come on, who HASN’T done those things and bragged about them publicly? I, for one, am totally a freak in bed, and most of my marriages have resulted from drug-induced skinny-dipping. That doesn’t mean I’m not an excellent model for young people.
As a Blue Cereal public service, here are a few general guidelines to follow, although details may vary depending on your district and the political leanings of your community.
It’s generally frowned upon to suggest you’d like to murder a teenager with a sniper rifle.
Don’t suggest that your gay kids are perverted by a sin that spreads like cancer.
Videos of yourself pole-dancing naked are probably a deal-breaker, but pole-dancing in exercise clothing as part of workout trend is still a gray area.
Also unclear is the status of topless selfies texted to a colleague who later shares them with students. Since this is not a problem if you’re a dude, should it be a problem if you’re a babe?
It’s a DEFINITE no-no to vent publicly that a bunch of 5th graders can suck your ****. (Who knew?)
This one’s for administration and the community. Shocking as it may seem, not every random rumor or scandal involving a teacher is true. Sometimes teenagers and their parents just love cranking up the community outrage machine without having actual facts or caring that much about reality. On the other hand, schools are supposed to prepare young people for real life after high school, and doing this certainly fits that description.
Are You Sure That’s How Russia Works?
It’s not just in the U.S., it seems. A teacher in Russia this past year was forced to resign after pictures surfaced showing her in a swimsuit and an evening gown (although not at the same time). Oddly, the evening gown was the less appropriate of the two, given that she’d just competed in a swimming competition – something they apparently frowned upon in Russia?
Here’s the most interesting bit, however:
After the story made headlines, Russian educators, both female and male, launched a flash mob posting their photos in swimsuits, underwear and sportswear under the hashtag #teachersarehumanstoo, to defy the hardline approach.
Are You Sure That’s How Blue Serials Works?
OK, I confess – we really only covered one recent education news story this week. It ended up leading to a kind of “theme,” if you will. Still, I hope you found it both enlightening and inspiring.
If not, please rant about it using obscenities and such on social media. Don’t worry – you have complete First Amendment protection no matter what your profession or what agreements you’ve signed. I’m sure of it.
If you have education news to share or want to write a Guest Blog Post anytime in the month of February, this is your chance. Just email me at BCE@BlueCerealEducation.com and let me know. You COULD win a rare #11FF Lunch Box for sharing the love!