Beaver Damned: Wisconsin Teacher Suspended For Picture on Facebook

9801650_bg1There 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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11 thoughts on “Beaver Damned: Wisconsin Teacher Suspended For Picture on Facebook”

  1. Pingback: Keanu
  2. I would not ordinarily mind a photo of a teacher holding a firearm. However, I think it’s very bad form to show it pointed toward the camera, because it’s as though it’s pointed at me (and other viewers), implying a threat against a human being.

  3. “Social conservatives who elevate religious expression above everything else”

    I like that one. “Christian” is bit easier to say though.

  4. rafflaw:

    Isn’t this fun? Normally you have a divisive expression of speech, i.e. “Bong hits for Jesus” or some obscenity, and you get the familiar alignments: social conservatives who elevate religious expression above everything else vs. civil libertarians. Here, the picture is symbolic of a way of life many conservatives lead. This pits both camps against the school. Unless of course the Brady Center weighs in.

  5. This school superintendant should be relieved of his job and shown the door. I am very concerned with the erosion of our constitutional rights. I am not a fan of guns, but if they are legal outside of school, there should be not be a problem with the teacher in a picture with a gun. What is the next step, having school district spies at the local movie house to see if any teachers are viewing objectional films?

  6. Jericho,

    Justice Learned Hand would tell you law is the shadow of justice. And he had a kickin’ name for a judge.

  7. Finally, an issue that should unite gun-toting conservatives and civil libertarians.

  8. Prejudice and power don’t mix well… it’s what got Bush in Iraq and Clinton impeached.

    If economics is the dismal science, what on earth may law be?

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