News

Teachers and social media: trekking on treacherous terrain

By Doug Oakley
September 22nd, 2014

Social media has pros and cons when the classroom is involved

social-mediaWhen news broke last month that Newark teacher Krista Hodges used Twitter to express her desire to stab some of her students and pour hot coffee on them, the questions arose quickly: Aren’t there rules about that? Why wasn’t she fired?

The answer is that teachers who use social media are living in the Wild West: Rules are few and far between, and discipline for stepping over the line is a hit-or-miss proposition.

In Hodges’ case, she acknowledged receiving a written reprimand from her school district. After this newspaper’s disclosure of her tweets, local police initiated an investigation into the matter. In other cases, teachers have been fired for much less.

“We’re not given any guidelines, really,” said Carissa Weintraub, a science teacher at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord and a Twitter user. “At this point, it’s sort of a free-for-all and we’re learning as we go along. I’ve heard horror stories across the country about people losing their jobs after posting stuff on Twitter or on Facebook.”

(Next page: The implications of social media use in education)