Thursday, June 28, 2012

Freedom of Speech

I read a recent article about the Bucks County high school teacher fired after they found the blog she wrote last year.  Attached to this particular piece were several links to the previous news coverage of the story including an impassioned speech made by the principal.  In his statement, he compares the privilege she has to write the blog versus the moral and ethical right to do so.  Her blog was filled with anger and vitreous comments about her students where she called them names and chastised their parents insinuating they were irresponsible.  The principal went on to quote statistics showing his school is ranked high in the nation, that they have high SAT scores, and that a large percentage of students go on to prestigious colleges.  It seemed to me quite a defensive plea meant to impress upon the listening public that his students are nothing like the kids she was talking about.
One thing that struck me about the whole issue is whether the school district had the right to fire her.  She does have freedom of speech and a legal right to express her feelings.  Not reading the blog I am not sure if she identified her students or spoke anonymously as she claimed she did.   But even if she did not name names, clearly the principal’s main job to maintain order and as her comments inflamed and enraged the student body they had to have had a large impact on moral.  On one hand I think that people have to get a backbone and stop being so overly offended.  On the other, I totally understand his decision because no school should have such a tenuous moral due to public scrutiny as this issue created.  It begs the general question of whether employees have a responsibility to maintain the façade an organization is trying to portray if there are a few people who are causing unrest.  It is a complex situation, no doubt.
I spoke to a coworker whose sister is a teacher.  His sister had read the blog and said it accurately described the majority of students’ behavior and that the blog was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek expose rather than anything abusive.  From what he said, parents these days are very defensive and will blame the teachers for the bad behavior rather than their children or themselves.  His sister apparently has been a teacher for a while and has seen a subtle shift over the years toward this kind of blame placing.  It’s sad really, that any blame placing has to be done and it is sad that a teacher would resort to name calling and profanity to express her frustrations about her job.  As an “educated” woman I would expect her rants be more civilized. While I will fight for her right to say what she wants, I have to agree that taking her out of the situation that can cause such angst for the student body is, unfortunately for her, the right thing to do.

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