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I Wasn't Supposed to See That
Old 08-20-2019, 03:12 PM
 
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A long-time friend has a son who just started at our school. It had long been rumored that there was a secret, closed FB page administered by some of our parents. Now it's confirmed. My friend was invited to join, was shocked by much of what was posted, and sent me several screen shots from the group.

The group goes back several years, it appears, and generally involves (mostly) moms (and a few dads) basically ranting about aspects of our school and members of our staff (often by name). Several threads were of parents posting their kids' timetables and then other parents responding to "warn" them about the teachers. "Oh... he got Mr. Jones for Math... If I were you, I'd get him switched out NOW." The parent responds to the effect that she thought teacher switches weren't allowed at our school (which is correct). Two other parents put laughing emojis in response and one chimes in helpfully, "There are ways around that. Here's what you have to do..." Other parents get in on the game and suggest stories (lies) the parent can offer up to administration and/or the academic counselor to get a kid switched from one class to another. "If you tell them he has low blood sugar and that it's not good for him to have Math just before lunch, the school HAS to move him."

Other threads are dedicated to locating and posting personal cell phone numbers of staff members. A related thread "rates" teachers by helpfulness, and one of the criteria is whether or not the teacher is willing to share his or her cell number and respond to calls and texts on weekends (this is considered a +1 for those teachers).

Other threads plaintively compare the policies and procedures of our school to what (allegedly) happens in other private schools. For example, one parent provided a list of private schools in which teachers are (again, allegedly) required to provide their personal numbers to parents and respond to messages outside of school hours. This is cited as evidence that our school is "behind the times" and not "providing the level of access and communication that is now standard and expected of schools at this price point." (Yes, "price point" was the parent's exact phrasing).

Parents cheerfully report (usually negative) stories their kids have told them (about school staff) as fact. This inspires a lot of sarcastic commentary from the rest of the community. "Can we talk about Mr. O'Brien, the history teacher?" to which another parent chimes in, "Sure he's a great history teacher... IF you believe you're paying that much in tuition for your son to watch movies all day." Another parent chimes in agreement and says they get much better value for their Netflix subscription than from paying Mr. O'Brien's salary. This earned the poster several laughing emojis and a couple of thumbs up comments. Another mom pipes up with "I dunno. I wish the history teachers at MY high school had looked more like O'Brien." She follows the comment with a bunch of chili pepper emojis and some hashtags #mrsixpack #historyhottie (those weren't the actual hashtags, but you get the gist).

The impression I got from my friend (also an educator) is that this group represents only a small number of our parent community, and I know the vast majority of our parents are great and would not engage in anything so awful. But the fact that this group even exists and that these people feel empowered to post about people by name is alarming. No wonder we are having such a hard time explaining cyber bullying to kids ... some of their parents already engage in it.

I think the jig was up for my friend. After she collected the screen shots, she was suddenly removed from the group without explanation and then couldn't find it at all. Maybe it was when they looked at her bio and realized she is a teacher as well. So they clearly have at least some sense that this is wrong to the extent that they want to cover their tracks.

I think my friend has also shared her screenshots with school admin. I don't know yet what, if anything, they will do about it. I hope they do respond.


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Abosultely disgusting!
Old 08-20-2019, 03:29 PM
 
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The behavior those parents have been demonstrating is absolutely disgusting! They believe they are kings of the world and that the world revolves around them. Such personality attributes are indicative of psychopathic/sociopathic behavior.
Just to respond to the lie about low sugar... don't they realize that the school would have to obtain proper blood tests to verify such claims? Now about the salary that those parents "forced" to pay...
You (parents) pay the teacher's salary because a) he/she has two college degrees; b) he/she has many years of pedagogical experience; c) he/she has to continuously expend their wealth of knowledge that requires additional time and money; d) he/she has to constantly improvise to make lessons engaging that your darlings can actually feel a slightest interest in the subject and e) and finally (well, not really, but I have to finish) he/she has to constantly endure your pathetic attempts at proving how perfect and nothing-can-do-wrong snowflake is while the teacher is an absolute abomination. These are the reasons you have to pay the teachers.
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Old 08-20-2019, 03:44 PM
 
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I really hope that something is done on the administrative level for this situation. You're never going to completely fix parental issues like that, but they certainly were very stupid to put it all on social media. This is the kind of stuff that should go viral in defense of teachers, since we so often see the opposite. I'm sorry you had to see all of that.
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Old 08-20-2019, 03:48 PM
 
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I don’t know why you’re surprised. It exists everywhere. We have parents on FB who feel like it’s perfectly acceptable to bash teachers, post lies, etc.

2 years ago I had a parent post outright lies about me. I had my P call her and have it removed. The P told her it made the school look bad. The P didn’t care about me at all but I told my P my cousin was a lawyer and she could handle it or she’d be hearing from my cousin. I wasn’t even getting the union involved. It scared the crap out of her.

Parents forget (or don’t care) that teachers are people. In your case they’re paying tuition so that ups the ante even more.
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Anti teacher FB
Old 08-20-2019, 05:41 PM
 
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You know what makes your post so very sad? It’s that I’m not surprised. Parents think because they’re paying for something that they get a big say in how the school should be run.

I sincerely hope your admin is able to address this.


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Old 08-20-2019, 06:19 PM
 
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What's sad is these parents have no ability to perceive teachers as people with feelings and imperfections like other humans. When these parents rate and ridicule teachers they sound like elitist bullies.
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Bullies
Old 08-20-2019, 06:31 PM
 
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We had an issue with this at my school last year. A teacher was being bullied (unknowingly). Another parent brought it to her attention and to the attention of the admin of the school. At first she was told, there's not much that can be done - free speech and whatnot. Then it got really bad. The parent started threatening to call CPS on the teacher. I believe admin got in touch with the admin of the group and the posts were removed. The child of the parent was placed in another classroom for the teacher's sake. The worst part is that the teacher has to see this parent every day and pretend like nothing ever happened. It's not surprising but it's just so sad.
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Old 08-20-2019, 07:29 PM
 
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That is just so wrong, but I'm not really surprised. Parents these days are very entitled and feel that teachers are their servants. It's probably even worse in a private school since they pay so much in tuition. I'm very happy to be retired and not have to deal with this behavior any more.
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Old 08-20-2019, 07:40 PM
 
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Not at all surprising. It's the same thing that happens (happened) in person for so many years. Now there is tech to do it in a different way.

I'm honestly not sure they can do a whole lot about it-- I wonder if they can or will. It's not a public site, per se, and it was never meant to be seen by the people it's about. At least now you know one avenue these ridiculous "workarounds" parents create are taking and you have a little insight into some of the particular families and the lies they've been telling.
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Old 08-21-2019, 04:53 AM
 
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I've always said I will reiterate: We teachers are our worst enemy!
In our quest of self sacrificing our lives if needed be, we set precedents for other teachers and schools.
Every time we give out our personal cell numbers to parents we set a a new precedent that will affect the rest of teachers every where. The sad part of setting a precedent is that with time it is not seeing as going above and beyond but as an expectation.
Having said this, I will take a moment to write a few examples with detrimental consequences:
1. Buying school supplies, decorating classroom. Today, it is seen as an expectation/not a choice, courtesy of teachers that continue to do this. In some school lack of inst material on the walls count against your evaluation. In other words, it is compulsive.
2. Non paid sports gate workers. As a matter of fact it is compulsive now days. Teachers have to volunteer a number of this every year.
3. Giving up planning time for staff meetings is now the new trend!
4. Staying late after the school day is over. GO HOME!
5. Happily substituting your planning time again and again when someone is absent! Let them hire a sub!


We as teachers have brought this on ourselves. We need to collectively stop all of the extra stuff we are doing. No one is going to pay us for what we are already willing to do for free and without question. We need to collectively quit-cold turkey making new expectations. But that would required the self sacrificing martyrs and recognition hogs that only cares about being popular to care for the rest of us.


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Old 08-21-2019, 04:53 AM
 
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I'm not surprised. My former school had a secret Facebook group that parents started. There was all sorts of gossip about teachers, students, and the administration. The administration knew about it, but there wasn't much she could do.
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Old 08-21-2019, 05:16 AM
 
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I agree with the “not surprised” group. I think using social media to air grievances is common today and you and your admin would be best served by ignoring it.
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Old 08-21-2019, 08:10 AM
 
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It's sort of like the RateMyTeachers website.
As always, I meet parents like these during P/T conferences or Open House. The idea that none of them could (even come close to being able to) do better than I can is somewhat satisfying. Makes you wonder if a lot of criticism comes from parents who realize they're failing as parents or that they aren't parenting as they should.
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Old 08-21-2019, 08:52 AM
 
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It's pretty disgusting but I don't know what can be done about it. At least it's a closed, secret group so presumably they try to invite like-minded people and it's not out there available for the entire community to read. I've seen people post some of this teacher-bashing stuff openly on FB.
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Discussion
Old 08-21-2019, 09:54 AM
 
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This FB group was the subject of much discussion among teachers today at lunch. Several shook their heads and said “it’s outside of school on social media... not much we can do.” However, this begs the question, if it were a teacher taking to FB and airing grievances about individual students and parents while identifying them by name, would admin be encouraged to “ignore it”? I doubt it, somehow. I suspect the teachers involved would be sternly ordered to delete the group and might even be subject to disciplinary measures. School administrations have been taken to task for abdicating responsibility when it comes to student-on-student cyber bullying.

So if I created a FB page and invited my colleagues to rank the students (by name) and rate the parents (by name) based on their appearance, what would be the likely outcome?

When I raised this point at lunch, one colleague dismissed it as “false equivalency” since the power differential is different and teaching is a “profession” whereas parenting is not. I’m not sure I buy it. It seems to me we often tolerate behavior from students and parents which would not be tolerated in reverse. There’s the case to be made that you have to teach people how to treat you, and we’ve done a poor job as a profession in this country of teaching parents and other members of the public how to treat us as professionals and as human beings.
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:13 AM
 
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I think it is a false equivalency. HIPAA laws prevent us from discussing students so if you get on FB and discuss a student you’re basically breaking the law.

And many states and districts have rules regarding professional conduct. Again, getting on social media and airing your grievances regarding a student or parent would go against the professional conduct rules.

Now, if a teacher chose (and I of some who have) to get a lawyer and fight for slander (or is it liable? I always confuse them) then go for it.
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:27 AM
 
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gg beat me to it. It's a FERPA and/or HIPAA violation for teachers to share certain information about students with others- even in a "closed" group. The same protection does not exist going the other way.

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Now, if a teacher chose (and I of some who have) to get a lawyer and fight for slander (or is it liable? I always confuse them
Libel is written, slander is spoken. https://learn.g2.com/libel-vs-slander

It would be interesting to see that happen- in some cases, it's going way too far for sure and something should be done.
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I confuse those two also
Old 08-21-2019, 11:31 AM
 
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they are both forms of defamation:
https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/d...nder-and-libel

I hope the administration brings to the attention of the parents that if they delve into defamation of the school or any teachers action can be taken.
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:55 AM
 
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Hmm. If they are saying insulting and untrue things about people and using their names, one could argue defamation. I think the gray area is that it's a closed, secret group and if it's a small group it might be hard to show how it has injured the people in question.

But then, it's probably not necessary to win a defamation suit. If your district's attorneys can get a subpoena to make Facebook open the group to investigation, they'll probably shut down. What they really want is to be able to teacher-bash and school-bash to their heart's content without worrying about it coming back to bite their children. (Yes, I know that most teachers won't take it out on students if their parents act like jerks, but those kinds of parents are always worried about it.) If it can be shown to them that nothing is ever truly private on FB, they'll probably cease and desist and take it back to the local bar or tavern, which is where these activities used to take place in the days before social media.
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:55 AM
 
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I don't think there is a lot admin can do. We have the same issue at our school. It wouldn't be libel unless the statements are untrue AND you can prove they intended harm with the statements. Gossip and mocking don't really fall under that. The movies all day statement might be untrue, but what harm can be proven was done to Mr. O'Brien?

The way we handle it is to talk with parents who are on the school's side and ask them to shut down gossip and false statements whenever they see it, and we asked a parent group to make their FB page secret at least, which they did. But we can't actually force them to do anything.

As a private school, can you ask these parents to leave the school? That's the only thing I can see being a possibility, and a very remote one at that, knowing private schools want students for the money.
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Old 08-21-2019, 01:13 PM
 
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However, this begs the question, if it were a teacher taking to FB and airing grievances about individual students and parents while identifying them by name, would admin be encouraged to “ignore it”?

Last year, I made the mistake of posting the school's nativity scene from our Winter festival. I have not posted anything, but this photo from my school, on my Facebook account. (I took it down.) I got into trouble over it, and told "I am horrible teacher, and never can be trusted." I studied theology, and attend Mass each week, and I worked in a public school.

The 5th grade teacher took to Facebook and aired grievances about individual students and their parents, identifying them by name. She got rave reviews from admin, and numerous awards.

The point we live in a bizarre world, and one person gets in trouble, while another person gets praised.

Me? I learned to never post anything work related on social media. I am out of a job, due to a license issue. I have applied for 25 teaching jobs in a state that is begging for teachers, and I can't find one. The 5th grade teacher who slammed her kids for smoking pot with her, got a promotion.
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Very Interesting
Old 08-21-2019, 01:38 PM
 
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Interesting points in this discussion!

So I'm informed that libel is prohibitively difficult to prove. You need to:

a) prove that the person whom you are suing is actually the source of the libelous material

So in the case of a screenshot from FB, the defense can easily argue that the defendant never posted that. Screenshots cannot be authenticated. No way to prove they are not digital manipulations without calling expert witnesses. If the offending posts have been deleted, you would need to subpoena FB's records, find the original post, and somehow link it unequivocally with the defendant. Now you're into years of discovery and six figures (easily) worth of billable hours by the lawyers involved. And if you're willing to spend the money, you'll probably still come up short and the evidence won't pass legal muster.

b) prove that the statement was demonstrably false and (even more tricky) show why the defendant knew (or reasonably ought to have known) that it was false

c) demonstrate that the statement caused harm and (usually) that it was the defendant caused the harm deliberately and/or negligently (good luck)


Okay... so to the FERPA point... let's leave the students out of it. Let's say I want to start a FB group in which I and some colleagues decide to post commentary about parents that's denigrating and mean but which doesn't actually violate any personal educational information about the students.

"Mrs. Parent REALLY needs to lose about 25 lbs. Paging Dr. Atkins! "

"You know Mrs. Parent? You'd hear her before you'd see her. Voice like a foghorn!"

"Mr. Parent just bought an even bigger hummer than the last one. What's he trying to compensate for? All he needs now is a bad toupee and a 20-year-old bimbo on his arm to complete his mid-life crisis."

"Somebody needs rhinoplasty! Ever seen the schnoz on Mrs. Parent? Yikes!"

So I haven't violated any student's confidential school information. Nor have I posted anything that's demonstrably libelous (see above). I'm exercising my First Amendment rights on a private social media channel. Am I in the clear (legally speaking)?

I'm hearing more and more that college admissions are peeking at students' digital footprints before making final decisions. Prospective employers are examining the social media profiles of job seekers. Employees who post material that cast their employers in a bad light can be reprimanded and even fired, and the courts have upheld many cases in which the employer took action under these circumstances. Schools call in students who bully one another online and threaten them with school-level consequences if the offending posts aren't removed.

Maybe we should be sending these screenshots to these parents' employers and/or clients instead of to our school's administration?

I don't know. And of course I wouldn't do anything like that myself. It's all theoretical (at least from my end). Even a nasty person doesn't deserve to have that done to them. But it's interesting that we are so quick to treat teachers like "fair game" when the same commentary would not be tolerated under other circumstances.

My sources tell me our administration will be reaching out to moderators of the page, inviting them in, and making it clear the school is aware of what's happening and ask them to remove the page. I suspect that most of the parents on the page will be embarrassed to have their behavior exposed and promptly exit the group. Which is as it should be. We shall see.

As to asking the families to leave the school, I suppose they could do that, but that feels like punishing the kid for the behavior of a parent, and that never sits well. If the parent and student are both posting... maybe.
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Old 08-21-2019, 01:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Am I in the clear (legally speaking)?
Legally in the clear. Professionally murky to outright pitch dark. It's no different than if my non-educator husband started mocking his customers. His company would fire him immediately because it makes them look bad.


Quote:
but that feels like punishing the kid for the behavior of a parent, and that never sits well.
Bad behavior rarely affects only the person acting badly. It's the nature of life. And often the ostensible reason for parent behavior is so that little Johnny can have the best. If parents start to see how their behavior publicly and immediately negatively affects little Johnny, maybe they'll shape up.
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Defamation suit by teacher against parent
Old 08-21-2019, 05:42 PM
 
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I am a teacher who filed a defamation suit against a parent for untrue statements the parent made about me to the superintendent, who then used some of those statements as a charge of dismissal.

My case is still winding its way through the legal system, so I have no outcome to report ... yet.

This is what you need to know:

Anything legal takes a long, long time.

Defamation is either verbal, which is slander, or written, which is libel. Each state has different timelines, but typically there is a longer period in which to file suit for libel.

Filing suit is an attention-getter for more than just the person you filed against; other parents, other teachers, and especially school system administrators see you in a whole new light.

A court trial is different from an administrative hearing, which is what most states use to terminate teachers. A lawsuit involves discovery and subpoenaed witnesses; you tell the other side what documents you want, and they must provide them, and you call witnesses who must appear whether they want to or not (if they don't show up, the judge can put them in jail for contempt of court). An administrative hearing (at least for teacher termination in my state) does not require discovery, which means the other side can refuse to give you documents that would help you prove your case, and witnesses who could testify in your defense can be summoned but not required to attend, and some won't because they fear losing their job. *** BTW, discovery in my defamation suit provided evidence that several witnesses at my termination hearing made false statements under oath.

Defamation suits or 'cease-and-desist' letters, like filing police reports, are drastic actions to take, but unfortunately, are sometimes the only effective option remaining.
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Old 08-21-2019, 09:35 PM
 
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FERPA is family educational rights and privacy act. Educators can’t talk about students with others unless they need to know. So a teacher can’t vent in the lunch room about a student in their classroom.

HIPPA is health insurance portability and privacy act. Health care professionals can’t talk about patients (or students) with others unless they need to know. A school nurse can’t talk in the lunchroom about a student having lice.
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Old 08-22-2019, 05:16 AM
 
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So a teacher can’t vent in the lunch room about a student in their classroom.
I don't think this is true. FERPA is designed to protect the privacy of a student's educational records. So, a teacher can't discuss anything that might be in those records - grades, IEPs, test scores, etc. - with people who don't need to know. So, you might not want to talk about that sort of thing in the lunch room, depending on who is in there, but teachers can certainly discuss student behavior in the lunch room without violating FERPA. What they definitely can't do is disclose to their friends and family members information that is in a students educational records or leave any written material laying around where anyone can read it.
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