There is another case of a teacher being punished for legal activities outside of the school setting. The latest case comes from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin where teacher Betsy Ramsdale has been put on leave after someone found a picture of her holding a gun on her Facebook site.
Beaver schools superintendent Donald Childs explains that a school employee found Ramsdale’s picture pointing a rifle at a camera and reported it. Ramsdale removed the picture but she is still on leave. Presumably, she is posing with stuffed animals (that is, originally stuffed animals as opposed to those shot and stuffed animals).
Assuming that this was not an unlawful weapon, it is unclear why a teacher should be put on leave simply because someone raised concerns. However, schools are increasing punishing both students (here, here, here, and here) and teachers (here, here, for activities outside of school. This includes teachers (here, here, punished for statements on Facebook. School employees have also been targeted.
The steady reach of employers into the private lives of employees is a worrisome trend that threatens free speech and free association. We have seen this trend appear not just with teachers but public employees, here and here.
One such case of punishing a student for internet comments has now led to new legislation to protect free speech. For former teacher Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, has introduced a bill that would prohibit school officials from punishing students for content of non-threatening electronic correspondence transmitted outside of school facilities or with school equipment. It is a great credit to LeBeau, but this should not require legislation. These students have first amendment rights that are being attacked by school officials and then ignored by the judges.
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