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Pitfalls and Precautions: Your words have consequences

December 11, 2018 Cory Schoffer, ATA Secretary to Professional, Conduct Committees

Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional ­Conduct Committee.

In our last column, I discussed social media communications between teachers and students. Sometimes, it doesn’t take two to tango!

Recently a professional conduct hearing heard the case of a teacher who posted inappropriate comments about a student and parents on the teacher’s own social media account. This particular case resulted in the teacher receiving a reprimand from the Association.

Like anyone else in society, teachers have freedom of speech and expression. What no one has a right to is ­employment. Teachers have occasionally treated their social media platforms as venues of self-expression. While pictures of your vacation, your kids, your pets, and even expressions of your political views and sports passions are perfectly acceptable, know that sharing these things on the Internet comes with the possibility of consequences.

Teachers have a duty to treat students with dignity and respect and to be considerate of their circumstances. Posting comments about students on your social media violates that duty. Additionally, these types of postings, involving students and parents, fail to maintain the honour and dignity of the profession. These actions are unprofessional.

So while you may have a right to freedom of speech and expression, that right is not unlimited. Your words have consequences. Those consequences may impact your employment, your professional standing and your reputation.❚

Read more Pitfalls and Precautions articles here.

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