DiigoNotes - What Gets Educators in Legal Hot Water

Ran across this article by Susan Fitzell some time ago and meant to come back to it. Worth a read!
    • Loose Lips Sink Ships – Things That Can Get Educators in Legal Hot Water!

      By
      Susan Fitzell
    • Remember those World War II posters that warned, “Loose Lips Sink Ships?”
    • in our digital age, this issue has taken on a new meaning and has escalated caution to another level.
    • Anything and everything written about a student on school grounds can be subpoenaed for use in court. Attorney Dianna Halpenny of Sacramento, California, reinforces that anything in writing with a student’s name in it is part of the official student record. It is not necessarily true that if teachers keep it at home that it is not a student record.
    • Attorney Pamela Parker of Austin, Texas, reveals another, less known, fact: even web-based email is forensically accessible. Web-based email history may still be on the school server. Parker acknowledges that schools are not necessarily monitoring emails; however, a forensic computer specialist can recreate the emails if necessary.
    • “Having a conversation by email or text message is no different than having a private conversation on stage at Carnegie hall in front of a full house. Most people won’t pay attention, but some will.”
    • Teachers may send an email to a parent, colleague, supervisor, etc. believing that the email will remain confidential between them. However, there is no guarantee that the recipient of an email will respect that confidentiality or realize the importance of keeping the interaction private.
    • Attorney Brad King of Richmond, Virginia, goes on to explain that even messages on personal phones, especially those regarding relationships with students, can become public domain. He explains that teachers’ phone records can be involved in litigation.
    • ‘rules of discovery’ mean that any information regarding students and/or teachers that one might presume to be private is subject to discovery in litigation. Goldstein emphasizes that the courts have held consistently that emails and text messages are not private, such that they may be subject to discovery in litigation (balanced, of course, against student privacy rights).
    • A teacher’s right to free speech is limited in the employment context, as it relates to their personal grievances. The courts have consistently held that a teacher does not have a free speech right and it is not constitutionally protected if they are expressing a personal wrong. If teachers protest publicly at a board meeting or speak derogatorily about an administrator, the courts say they do not have the rights to free speech. Comments are only held up by the courts if it’s a matter of public concern.
    • A public concern is a grievance that affects the public: The teacher’s students, the school community, the public. Personal grievances that only affect the teacher are not protected under free speech.
    • If teachers need to vent, vent at home without mentioning specifics about, or identifying, the student with whom they are having issues.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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