Teachers expressing negative opinions of students online


Justin and I were chatting recently about an example cyberbullying case that involves a student who repeatedly is posting comments on her Facebook page about a teacher at school, stating “Mr. Z is a douchebag,” “Mr. Z is a jerk and nobody likes him,” and “Please post ‘I Hate Mr. Z’ comments on my wall!”  Assuming that the student speech is protected because it is not materially disrupting school activities, we were wondering what the ramifications would be if Mr. Z posted his feelings and opinions about specific students on his own personal Facebook page.  Should we hold students and teachers to different standards?  Do we?  What are the long-term consequences of doing so?  Before we share our own perspective, we’d love to hear the thoughts of visitors to this blog!


  1. Of course we hold them to different standards. Teachers are adults and expected to be role-models, while kids are neither. I do think, though, that it would be very effective for teachers to use this as an example in class. Do you think it would be OK if I posted the kind of comments on Facebook about you that you post about me. Doesn't even occur to kids that we could do that. My students (grades 7 and 8) are still amazed I know how to phone their parents 😉

  2. I think with what is happening with "cyber bullying" and the "speed of light" rate it has taken, we should hold any one who thinks they are responsible enough to have a phone/inter net site accountable. The kids know what they are doing, and most likely get some type of "fantasy satisfaction" out of it. As adults, we need to take control of the matter, just as we need to take control of our kids lives again. Limit usage, be the watchdog.

  3. Cyberbullying is also a serious problem on college campuses. Students and faculty are harmed by such bullying tactics. As a university professor, dealing with negative comments is an unfortunate reality and should be expected; however, harassment and cyberbullying must be addressed and taken seriously. Obviously, faculty should not engage in immature, impulsive, and unprofessional behavior such as posting derogatory comments about students. Most of us are aware that the traditional college student's brain is still developing and maturing. Rather than taking things personally, I agree that such behavior presents a potentially valuable learning opportunity, primarily in teaching and gaining empathy. However, some students lack empathy and will continue to engage in such behavior; they may not fully understand or care about the consequences of their actions. More specifically, they may not realize how damaging such comments can be to faculty reputations and careers, particularly when it comes to tenure and promotion. Comments on course evaluations and sites, such as RateMyProfessor.com, can result in significant consequences for faculty. Unfortunately, university administrators on some campuses are beginning to give weight to such Internet postings without fully understanding technology and cyberbullying (i.e. failing to understand how easy it is to create a fake profile or to even rate yourself). This is another potentially devastating impact of the misuse of technology but something we can address before things get further out of hand.

  4. Many high schools such as my own have no official cyber guidelines as to our contacts with students beyond the campus. We are told to use our own judgment, and not everyone is on the same page about this, a clear sign of potential trouble. The guidelines are in development is the last I heard. What we generally believe is that all of our communications with students will soon need to be on class or school websites, similar to doctors who e-mail their patients only through certain programs. We also know that Facebook and other companies easily give over information to our schools when it comes to teacher pages, and that privacy in some places is relative.

    I may or may not know if students write about me on Facebook and other social networking programs. I see what they write on ratemyteachers and other websites when I check, and know if I want higher ratings may mean not doing my job, because students have outright told me if I did not test them on something that they will give me high ratings on teacher rating programs. That is not "how I roll" as students sometimes verbalize it.

    We hold teachers to different standards. In my situation I am the adult and over 18, so I might think this acceptable, only I have seen horrid statements made, and rarely taken down, from YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere. I probably would not wish to state my opinions in writing on Facebook, because whenever the student received a grade on work, that my comments could come into question, also opening up all of my communications under some microscope, whereas I prefer the focus elsewhere. This may give some students a feeling of power over the teacher, and some teens definitely know better and make statements anyway, trying to victimize the teacher. The problem is that once comments are out there, regardless of whether the student-made statements are true, they are available for all to see, from future employers to adults we might date, which is why these companies are popping up trying to clean up the reputations of people on the Internet and improve them, all electronically and not based on character. It is a new world we are entering, to be sure.

    Note that I am new to considering bullying and cyberbullying, but made comments anyway, for what they may be worth.

  5. None of the above comments actually speaks to the topic, "TEACHERS expressing negative opinions of students on-line." This is an act of cyberbullying committed by the teacher, which impacts the student. Once this is done, the student is a target and has no chance to to be viewed by other faculty through non-biased eyes. To go even further, parents who belong to social sites that are shared by teachers of students also influence a students success or failure. We have a straight A student with a plummiting conduct grade, per his teacher. We also know that a parent of the only other child in our subdivision that goes to our child's school is a facebook buddy with our child's teacher. Our neighbor's child and our child are not friends and we have seen and heard that the other parent has a negative opinion of our child. We cannot overlook the cyber-comm going on between our neighbor and the teacher. The teacher has even made acusations regarding behavior at home that she would have no other intel on if it weren't for the facebooking neighbor. This may be the first documented case of teacher cyber-bullying a student.

  6. Whether teachers talking about their students online is cyberbullying could be up for discussion. Here are a few quick thoughts, still passing on an impulse to answer that question. Many teachers write online about their students regularly and not all of their comments are positive, nor do they need to be, in my opinion. It is how many people communicate today, including teachers. The problem in the above situation as I see it and I imagine someone who has studied this area could express it better is lack of discretion by the teacher and likely a lack of clear guidelines by the campus or district on who teachers may "friend" online that is clearly stated and not a violation of their legal rights as teachers. Teachers may also be reflecting on what transpires in school in other online environments such as professional Nings, like the English Companion Ning, as you may be aware. Teachers problem solve together. They have new teacher groups as well where teachers discuss what happens if… and so on.

    To avoid these "friending" questions as a high school teacher, I made a personal policy not to have students as "friends" even for years after they graduate if ever. Policies do not dictate this, however. In fact, some teachers who are online have two or more profiles, and the students who may discuss items will often rank the teachers higher on places like ratemyteachers.com which sometimes future employers view. I take a few minor risks by having any social program identity, and am wise enough not to discuss the behavior of students in those forums, but I do not see anything that legally would disallow this. If anyone such as a parent were to approach me about any situation not only would I listen but I would discuss it with appropriate parties as well as I am sure I would be called on to do, because I sincerely want my students to feel safe so they may learn. In the above described situation, if the student had any alternative class that would fit the student schedule, I am sure the student would be removed if possible, keeping in mind class size balancing/contract limits and other concerns, and if anyone asked, it is no one's business beyond those parties involved as to the reason, and a generic answer provided is often teacher contract balancing.

    With 200-250 teachers on my high school staff at any give time, we hardly agree on any one issue, rarely seem to all be able to meet at the same time, and do not focus on a behavior grade of one individual student, and never as a group like is described in the above scenario. This is not to pass over on the fact that some teachers may talk, because teachers are humans like everyone else. In fact, most of us have given up on behavior grades or citizenship grades or work habit grades altogether, because with 200-240 students a day, who has the time to discuss each individual situation if raised anyway while writing college letters of recommendation, providing feedback on student work, serving on committees, and all of the other responsibilities as teachers and as people. Though the laws are in development, most teachers are aware that Facebook and other networking programs are not private, and may be viewed by our employers, even if under exactly which situations are at times unclear.

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