Too Much Freedom of Speech or Too Much Money?

By Elizabeth Rich — April 07, 2008 1 min read
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A Facebook/MySpace war being waged at Horace Mann, an elite private school in New York City populated by children of the rich and powerful, is raising questions that even lesser mortals have been grappling with. For example: Who has the right to control online teacher taunting? In lurid detail, New York magazine describes the disturbing Internet hijinks played on Web sites, including Mann’s own Facebook group page, by the school’s students and their powerful parents who protect them. The imbroglio erupted at the high school after students posted lewd and exploitive comments about their teachers (one referring to a faculty member as an “acid casualty” is about the only expletive suitable for printing here).

A confluence of factors—trustee children, their trustee parents, and administrators bending to trustee parents—have proven an unfortunate recipe for beset and powerless teachers who have been reading about themselves online. In turn, parents not happy with teachers reading their children’s Facebook pages have pushed back and hard—wielding board power and pushing teachers out, instead of having their children face consequences. At one faculty meeting, the head of the school allegedly told his staff that students would be punished, but then took teachers to task for engaging in “similar behavior.” “Your contracts are under review and you’re being watched by the kids,” he reportedly said. Something they probably already knew.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.