Doug Peterson has written a number of great posts over the past few days based on a wide-ranging Twitter conversation we had on the weekend.
Doug has summarized the conversation really well in the following posts:
This is a hard conversation to summarize as it went on for three days and had participation from at least ten different participants. The conversation is collected here in case you want to see it.
I also tried to summarize things in this blog post: Twitter, Educators, and Dissent – October 8
As the conversation evolved, we got closer to talking about free speech, social media and working for an institution. I don’t think anything was resolved, but it was very interesting and more than a little sad to read what people had to say.
To me, it shows that our ideas on social media are still evolving. It indicates that institutions have an incredible fear of social media and see it still as a threat. It also reminds me of the incredible power of institutions to suppress the actions of its members even if these actions are not clearly critical of the institution.
To be honest, it is amazing that we had any sort of conversation as some of the participants are still working for districts and these individuals clearly took a risk by getting involved. I totally understand why others decided to stay clear.
I wrote one comment on Doug’s post and I think this would be a good conversation to have openly on voicED Radio.
In preparing to write the comment, I took a look at an old disciplinary letter that I received. It had a chilling effect. It brought back all the old, bad emotions that swirled around during the last year and a half of employment for that district. Truly, writing about this stuff is more difficult than what I have written in the past about my mental health journey.
Still, this needs to be written about. Institutions should not be allowed to operate with impunity, nor should they be motivated by fear or the desire to sanction employees who challenge their way of thinking.
I hope these posts, discussions, and comments can open this conversation a little bit. It is way past time that we matured in our views regarding social media.
Here is my comment:
Hi Doug. Thanks for your posts over the past few days. Very interesting discussion. Reading the comments and your post again I think it is important to point out that disciplinary action is not a black and white thing. I think we are all looking for the smoking gun – the obvious tweet that is clearly over the line. It is not as simple as that and not everything can be resolved through a face to face conversation either.
When it comes to a violation of board policy leading to disciplinary action, it is the school board that defines what is appropriate and what is not. They are the ones holding all the cards and they determine what is appropriate. They issue the letter and add in that any further ‘violation’ will lead to further action including suspension without pay.
These are extremely effective actions because they do not need to define what a violation really is.
When you don’t have to clearly define the policy or the violation almost anything can be considered a violation. This effectively shuts down the person who receives the letter.
School Boards are well within their rights to do this and in Ontario at least, nothing can be done about this, especially if you are an administrator.
You do not have to say or tweet something critical of the board, you just have to do something they disagree with. None of this is obvious and none of this falls within the easily defined lines you mention above.
What is the result of all this? Basically, silence.