Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Teacher Fired For Comments On Facebook

In today's world people have to be very careful what they say online, on a social networking site or on a blog. ABC reported about a Mass teacher for comments he made on Face Book. Lexology describes what happened as follows:

ABC news reported yesterday about an employee fired for statements made on a social networking site – this time Facebook. The employee, Massachusetts high school teacher June Talvitie-Siple, was fired by her school district for statements she made about the community, her students and their parents. The 54-year-old teacher mistakenly thought her statements were being communicated only to her circle of friends on the popular site, not to the entire world. As others have found before her, such a misconception can be costly.    

What did Talvitie-Siple say on Facebook? In one post, she referred to the students as “germ-bags,” on account of the multiple times she caught illnesses from them. She also described the community and the parents as “arrogant” and “snobby.”

Of course, when a public institution is involved First Amendment legal issues may arise. First Amendment rights, however, are far from absolute and provide much less protection than most people think. Law review commentary on this important subject would be most welcome.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Education Law, Employment Law, Law Review Ideas | Permalink


Whatever First Amendment protections a public-school teacher had, was greatly diminished by the US Supreme Court's decision in Garcetti.

Posted by: Sujan Vasavada | Sep 20, 2010 9:13:33 AM

I think this is a clear black and white issue with no room for gray. Teachers should not be allowed to communicate with their students in any way on Facebook. With that said, some 'bad' teachers will always find a way to circumvent any policy or restrictions that might be placed on them. ‘Good' teachers will be smart enough to stay away regardless. The slope on this one is just too slippery.

Posted by: Clay | Nov 3, 2010 5:58:36 AM

If a teacher has broken no laws, why is it that they are held to some arbitrary higher standard than any other citizen of the USA? It would appear that unless the public employee has specifically defamed an individual, no specific law is broken, other than potentially poor judgement. When did innacuous poor judgement become against the law?

Posted by: JTSiple | Nov 11, 2010 8:25:31 AM

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