Philadelphia-area teacher Natalie Munroe has been in the news lately for blogging about her students. Her BLOGSPOT (LOL! OF COURSE!) blog was down for a time and is now back up, featuring her comments about the situation as of Saturday 2-12-11.
She apparently wrote joking posts over a year ago that gave what she describes today as "fake" or humorous commentary for teachers to select on report cards. I have a tiny article cut from a magazine that students gave me some years ago which purports to list the top 10 funny comments from teachers on student report cards. One is "Your student has reached rock bottom and continues to dig." I sometimes read this to students for humorous purposes, making it clear that I don't support teachers making that type of comment, but giving them a few laughs. Perhaps Natalie Munroe's list was similar to this list. Since it's no longer available online, it's difficult to tell. Natalie got in trouble because current students read her blog and thought the comments were about them. They complained to school administrators and Natalie was quickly suspended from her job.
Do I think Natalie has a free speech right to write on her blog? Yes. Is it possible that she's being unfairly vilified and targeted? Yes. She probably was trying to write something humorous, although her post of this past Saturday emphasizes disappointment and dissatisfaction with student participation and performance (i.e. "I was right to put them down.")
So, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it. We have a legal right to burn the American flag as a form of free speech. Burning the flag carries consequences. If a person does it in sight of military personnel, law enforcement personnel or just average patriots, he or she should be prepared for the consequences of free speech.
So that is where teacher Natalie Munroe is. Her employment as a teacher has nothing to do with free speech. I see no reason for her not to continue blogging, and I don't think she or any other teacher should refrain from exercising their rights to free speech online. At the same time, the District where she teaches should have the right to determine whether or not she's performing her job up to standards or not.
However, with numerous horrible teachers continuing in classrooms across America for years, I also question why Natalie is being singled out. She is by far from the only teacher who's ever blogged about students. Other abominable teachers do just about anything bad imaginable and do not lose their jobs.
As a last thought, I'd just ask people to think about the existence of her blog as a "Blogspot" blog. This free service is the haven for defamers, anonymous trolls, and other reprehensible content of virtually any type (child porn, advocating racism and violence, etc.). Blogspot is uncensored and free - obviously a person with a desire to make negative or worthless commentary would rather do anything but pay any type of fee for a more professional-level service.
Natalie Munroe should never have made those comments (one of which contained a pretty serious spelling error) about her students. Just because we have a "right" to do something does not make it right.