Teacher Suspended for Inappropriate Facebook Posts
"How bout I blasted both of them. The girl in my class hair is nappy almost every day and the boy wears dirty clothes, face nasty and can't even read. They didn't bother nobody else when I got through with them."
The posting came from Memphis Kindergarten Teacher Tameka Gatewood, and according to the Huffington Post, she has been put on unpaid suspension until a tenure hearing can be held. While parents were distraught after reading her multiple comments regarding students and parents, it is not the first time that a teacher was disciplined for venting on social media outlets.
CBS Atlanta explains that this is not the first time that Gatewood made hateful comments or offended others. Regarding parents, she wrote: "If another parent tell me it's my job to teach their children, it's gonna be po po time." She expressed her irritation with parents in another post by writing: "What do you think you're supposed to do? Bang! Bang! Shoot ‘em up dammit! Just kidding!! For real tho — slap their ass back then Bang! Bang! Shoot ‘em up dammit.”
Gatewood had issues with insubordination long before she became a teacher, dating back to when she was a secretary for the district. The principal at the time urged the board to fire her in 2002, writing: "How many times does a person have to be insubordinate before action is taken?" Despite these allegations, she was employed as a teacher at Sharpe Elementary School years later.
While parents are urging for the district to fire Gatewood, the district does not have a social media policy in place. According to the Huffington Post article, similar cases have sprung up across the nation, like one in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where English Teacher Natalie Munroe blogged that her students were “disengaged, lazy whiners.” She was suspended and then later reinstated. A teacher in Paterson, New Jersey also called herself a “warden” and referred to her first graders as “future criminals.” She similarly did not lose her job.
Since more social media-related employment cases have made big news, 40 districts across the country have instated social media policies. While the Memphis City School District has not yet adopted any policy, WMCTV explains that they are taking the case seriously. School Board Commissioner Tomeka Hart has said, “I agree we don't have a specific social media policy, but we do have ethics. We do have professionalism. We expect our teachers to act as adults whether they're in social media or otherwise."
While Gatewood’s future career is uncertain, it is likely that more of these cases will be at the forefront of discussion, with websites like Facebook and Twitter being used widely both in and out of the classroom. While many have defended the aforementioned teachers, saying that they have rights to free speech as private citizens, there are others who disagree, arguing that teachers are public employees and never stop being teachers.
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This blog was originally published on Finding Common Ground at Education Week by Peter DeWitt on November 4, 2012 6:38 AM.
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