Facebook Postings

K-12 Law School Series

Facebook Postings

Marilyn Gardner, lawyer, spent years teaching Advanced School Law at the university doctoral level. Her focus was court decisions at all levels of government which have had an impact on the governance of schools and what school personnel can do in terms of the operation of schools, curriculum, instruction, assessment and school personnel, and treatment of candidates. Marilyn Gardner, Lawyer, would always stress that failure to comply with school law can have far reaching and costly implications.

The K-12 School Law Series curriculum focuses on the Pearson Educational
Leadership Series books which focus on the major areas of school litigation and promotes an understanding of the principles of law that guide the governance and operations of schools while equipping school authorities with appropriate knowledge, skills and disposition to fulfill their
obligations to school-aged youngsters.

In her research, she identified four Pearson Educational Leadership Series books (https://www.amazon.com/School-Law-Public-Schools-Educational/dp/0137072759) that are valuable resources on these topics. They cover many facets of K-12 School Law and are important resources to empower school administrators and staff.

They are:
 Law and Ethics in Educational leadership, David Stader ISBN: 978-0-13-268587-0
 School Law and the Public Schools, Nathan Essex, ISBN: 978-0-13-707275-0
 A Teacher’s Pocket Guide to School Law, Nathan Essex, ISBN: 978-0-13-335191-0
 School Law: Cases and Concepts, Michael W. LaMorte, ISBN:978-0-13-707247-7

Pearson’s resources (https://www.pearson.com/us/sign-in.html) focus on the major areas of school-related litigation and the implications of court rulings for school leaders, teachers as well as the related changes in policy affecting the school environment. School staff will be empowered to deal in legally defensible ways with school- and community-based situations and remain current with school related law and policy.

Topic: Facebook Postings
Pearson Educational Leadership Series

 Sample Scenarios from: Law and Ethics in Educational leadership, David Stader (ISBN: 978-0-13-268587-0) and School Law and the Public Schools, Nathan Essex, ISBN: 978-0-13-707275-0

As you are probably aware, there are more than 800 million active users on Facebook, according to their own statistics. Although some students may claim that all of their Facebook postings are protected by the freedom of expression right afforded all citizens through the U.S. Constitution, there are circumstances when school leaders may take action to limit or eliminate this right under certain conditions.

Let’s work through a case scenario.

You have obtained access to some troubling Facebook postings made by David, a middle school student in your school. His highly derogatory postings are directed at his social studies teacher, Mr. Williams. David’s statements are inflammatory, and clearly untrue.

When you confront David and his parents, they tell you that the “satire” is cutting-edge and popular. Obviously, you just do not get it from your mundane school principal perspective. They substantiate their popularity claim by reporting that hundreds of David’s Facebook friends from school think it is hilarious. Furthermore, they do not understand why you are trying to infringe on David’s freedom of expression, since he writes the satire from his home computer. They also claim that it has nothing to do with school because it is located on his personal Facebook account. They accuse you of illegally trying to censor David’s creativity. They tell you to “mind your own business.”

Let’s legally review this scenario by answering the following four questions.

Question 1: Should you share David’s Facebook postings with Mr. Williams?

The main issue on which we will want to reflect is if there any professional liability if you fail to share the postings with him? You need to realize that you will acquire significant professional liability if you decide to not share this information with Mr. Williams. Many school leaders would consider a private meeting with Mr. Williams, to share David’s Facebook postings in a timely manner, as essential.

Question 2: What legal principle applies in this case?

The controlling question is Do you need to take action, or “mind your own business”?

The primary legal principle applicable in this case centers on whether there is a nexus (connection) between David’s Facebook posting and your school. Since the Facebook postings have admittedly been viewed by “hundreds of David’s Facebook friends from school” and potentially others, including parents, these untrue rants could significantly impact Mr. William’s status as a respected teacher in your school. Since there is a nexus, action is necessary.

Question 3:  Based on this legal principle, what action (if any) do you take? Since this is a school matter, do certain student policies apply?

Your applicable student code of conduct policies, acceptable use of technology policies, and/or other student policies should be fairly applied in this case. This student misbehavior, even though it occurred “out-of-school”, has become a school issue. As such, decisive administrative action is required.


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