Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

Summary: A judge has told a first-grade teacher she should be fired for posting on Facebook that she felt like a warden overseeing future criminals. Her lawyer plans to appeal the ruling.

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Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass has ruled Jennifer O'Brien, a first-grade teacher at School 21 in Paterson, New Jersey, should lose her tenured job, because of a Facebook comment she made about her students. O'Brien has been on administrative leave since March, which is when she posted her status update saying "I'm not a teacher -- I'm a warden for future criminals!" She claimed she wrote it out of exasperation after several students disrupted her lessons, one pupil hit her, and another stole money from her.

Bass said O'Brien "demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the world in which her students live" and called her conduct "inexcusable." O'Brien's lawyer, Nancy Oxfeld, says the teacher will appeal the ruling, according to CBS News. The state education commissioner has 45 days to accept, reject, or modify the judge's decision regarding O'Brien.

Like many before her, O'Brien thought she was updating her Facebook status privately. She had 333 friends who could have seen it – some of them did, and a fraction of those forwarded it on to others. This resulted in a "significant" number of parents arriving at the school, demanding their children be pulled from her class.

"The reason why she was suspended was because the incident created serious problems at the school that impeded the functioning of the building," board president Theodore Best said in a statement at the time. "You can't simply fire someone for what they have on a Facebook page; but if that spills over and affects the classroom then you can take action."

O'Brien then refused to make any public statements, but her lawyer did speak on her behalf, saying that any comments that the teacher had made on Facebook were done on her own time and to her friends. "My feeling is that if you're concerned about children, you're concerned about what goes on in the classroom, not about policing your employee's private comments to others," Oxfeld said in a statement.

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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

    Seriously? For that? Think of the amount of chaos that your average six year old causes. Now multiply that by 30. It was a statement of exasperation. When my little sister breaks or loses something, when I say "I'm gonna kill her", I don't actually think about harming her.
    Aerowind
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @Aerowind

      +1
      The world is becoming more ridiculous by the day.
      Frenz9
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        @Frenz9 Since I am not a teacher, tenured or not, I feel quite comfortable in saying that if this depiction is accurate then the ALJ should be the one losing the job. You have to be sensitive to the world the kids grow up in? So assault and theft are now acceptable? Really?

        So this teacher is losing a <i>tenured</i> position over this? If she was a teacher for one of my numerous children I would be backing her up.
        m0o0o0o0o
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @Aerowind Agreed, especially if her students are actually future career criminals. The enraged parents are probably the source of the problem, hence why they were so mad. I take it that the truth hurts?

      There are so many failed scrubs who end up being parents... Poor children.
      DickCheney777
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @Aerowind +1

      Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass went way too far down the slippery slope with this ruling.
      Skippy99
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        @Skippy99 ALJ Ellen Bass should be fired. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have tenure, either.
        m0o0o0o0o
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        @Skippy99 Agreed. So she get's in trouble for speaking the truth? What happened to free speech that our judicial system is supposed to be upholding? You couldn't pay me enough to teach public school. Note to other teachers...don't friend students, parents of students, co-workers, or administrators in FaceBook.
        Splunge
  • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

    People need to be less hyper sensitive. If she made that comment about a particular student, by name that would be one thing, but a general statement?

    If you look for fault you will find it.
    Paul Krueger
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @Paul Krueger And I bet the parents of the kids who hit her and stole from her didn't give a flip and didn't ask to have the kids removed from her class...

      A lot of parents seem to forget what parenting actually entails...
      wright_is
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      Agreed. 'Looking for fault' is another way to say 'picking a fight'. The teacher may have been wrong for saying that, but the teacher ALSO made that very statement in what she considered to be a somewhat private venue. (Her private post on Facebook). That she has to be punished because one of her many friends is too stupid to respect her privacy is just plain outrageous and stupid. (This is why I prefer G+, where one can just lock re-sharing)

      The judge went too far, and I hope the person who has the authority to actually fire the teacher thinks about that and realizes the situation.
      ZazieLavender
  • Loss Of Free Speech And Political Correctness Are Ruining America...

    I've seen classes like hers here in Calif. and there is nothing the teachers can do about the disruption, violence and assault. The kids who make these classes, and the schools, a living nightmare, are protected by their social status, and teachers are punished for saying anything. And on top of all that, if the teachers don't show sufficient progress in the "No Child Left Behind" challenge, they are punished. No one involved in Govt. or the school system (or liberal America) has the guts to admit that certain children are unteachable, and that they severly inhibit the ability of others in those classes/schools to learn. In California, if you can afford it, you move your kids out of public schools, and away from the physical and emotional trouble, as soon as you can, if you don't your kids risk almost certain failure and death at the hands of the monsters.
    Steve@...
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @Steve@...
      Watch were you're swinging that broad brush partner. The public schools my kid goes to her in CA are great....and they are in an extremely poor area too.

      Your general hate for public education clouds your view.
      toadlife
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        @toadlife <br>Statement condemning something are most often viewed using a broad brush; get over it. Unless a person is named it is a broad brush. Notice you as well are swinging a broad brush, partner. You say "your general hate for public education clouds your view". How do you know he hates public education or that his view is clouded; it is an assumption on your part. Maybe he is speaking from personal experience; "Partner".<br><br>I know many teachers in CA that have the same complaints, frustrations, and feelings. The stories they tell will shock you. When students know they can get away with misbehaving they misbehave with impunity. Sometimes taking out their anger physically on the teacher. The teacher cannot even defend themselves striking back without getting in trouble.<br><br>The teacher is not a baby sitter, warden, the police, and the like. When a child is disruptive get rid of the child not the teacher. Parents and children need to take responsibility for their behavior.<br><br>It is the job of the teacher to teach, it is the child's responsibility to learn. If they do not learn then when they get out of school the real world will be very cruel for them. Oh-well..
        BubbaJones_
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        @BubbaJones: You may, indeed, know many teachers in CA who are frustrated with their lot in class. I know several in IL, as well. But that doesn't invalidate toadlife's comment. I happen to agree with Steve@ that we have gone far too far to include students who are misbehaving in class, and with the amount of weight external activities carry against the curricular time-on-task that we imagine (and expect that) our children are experiencing. I know of school policies that allow students to turn in make-up work at any point in the class for full credit, schools where teachers are required to allow suspended students to make up any missed assignments, including laboratories, for full credit (turning the suspension into a vacation), and schools where every other week is an early out or an in-school special activity, shortening the time of every class period of the day. Seriously? Every other week? Half days off every month? And the politicians want our kids to go to school on Saturdays. How about actually making them go to school for the full time during the current school year? That would be a good start.

        As for the teacher, you would think that with all the publicity of people 'outed' for one thing or another on Facebook that the message would sink in that this is, after all is said and done, not email, but a public forum. There is no privacy. But she shouldn't be fired. Disciplined, yes. But a mistake of this magnitude isn't firing material. It was a stupid move on her part, not an intentionally hurtful one. I think the judge was over the top on this one.
        always-a-geek
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        [i]Watch were you're swinging that broad brush partner. The public schools my kid goes to her in CA are great....and they are in an extremely poor area too.[/i]

        Well that's [b]your[/b] school. Not every school out there is like [b]your[/b] school there, padnah....

        [i]Your general hate for public education clouds your view.[/i]

        Yeah well they clearly failed in this case. I hope that teacher sues the brains out of that school.
        ScorpioBlue
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @Steve@... No one unteachable. The problem usually is that the system does not suit the children.

      In many cases, not all, many of the kids would respond and work better in smaller classes, groups of 5 or 10, some may need 1 to 1 lessons to get back on track.

      No one is unteachable it more about the resources we are willing to allocate to teach them and for some kids the resources we do allocate are not enough.
      Knowles2
  • Seriously? She didn't say anything that could be viewed as bad

    When I read the title, I was thinking about the case where a teacher posted about specific students (with names) and talked about their grades.

    But a teacher saying that she feels like "a warden overseeing future criminals" is in no way anything bad enough to consider as a reason to terminate the employment of the person. With the way kids behave today (because the parents don't teach their kids any kind of control and defend them when they do something wrong), the statement was probably appropiate. If parents didn't like it, then they should learn to educate their kids better.

    Education STARTS AT HOME. Teachers are not getting paid enough to put up with spoiled brats and their lazy parents.
    wackoae
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @wackoae

      "Education starts at home". I couldn't agree more!
      lapland_lapin
      • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

        @lapland_lapin
        Unfortunately, in many homes education never starts. Teachers have tremendous responsibility and no authority anymore. They can't discipline kids and the kids know it. The parents are too busy with their own lives and expect the schools to take care of everything.
        inetcnslt@...
    • RE: Teacher should be fired for Facebook comment, judge rules

      @wackoae ( Your absolutely RIGHT ) Teachers are really just overpaid babysitters who endure kids hitting,spitting, cursing, stolen from and LIED on ( Meaning made up stories of abuse, either sexual or physical, and have no recourse other than take it or get fired. There isn;t enough money to pay me to do it. I would beat the shit out of about half of them
      Greenman9