Teacher Natalie Munroe blogged about her students—and got suspended for it. Is calling kids "rat-like" and "lazy whiners" protected by free speech?
Ever wondered what your teachers said about you when they headed home after an especially stressful day? Natalie Munroe, a 30-year-old Philadelphia-area high school English teacher took her extremely candid commentary about students to her public blog—and of course a student discovered it. Munroe says she didn't do anything wrong, and claims her blog entries are free speech, but last week the Central Bucks School District suspended her with pay and officials want to fire her.
Munroe says she began blogging in 2009 for the same reasons most people do—to communicate with friends and scratch a writing itch. That sounds perfectly innocent, except that she also decided to occasionally talk smack about her students. Her blog has been deleted but, thanks to the magic of Google cache, some entries are still available. In one, Munroe writes
"My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying."\n
She also refers to her students as "rat-like," and "frightfully dim," describes one as, "a complete and utter jerk in all ways," and predicted another kid's future by writing, "I hear the trash company is hiring."
Munroe was clearly a very frustrated teacher—we all get frustrated at our jobs sometimes, but that doesn't mean we take to our blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook feeds and write things like, “There’s no other way to say this, I hate your kid.”
In an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Munroe said she never planned for her blogs to “get out there.” She maintains that she did it all anonymously, and while it's true that she never specifically wrote the name of her school, the names of any of her students or where she lives, her picture is in her profile. She told GMA that although some people might not like what she had to say, her words are being taken out of context and she stands by what she said.
Munroe's lawyer, Steven Rovner, added that his client didn't do anything wrong, and that her suspension is a form of censorship. Depending on whether or not the school district decides to fire Munroe, they may decide to file a constitutional case to "protect her First Amendment rights."
Of course, whether or not you can say or write something doesn't mean that you always should. And, instead of going in on her students, one has to wonder, what was Munroe doing to invest those rude, disengaged kids in her lessons?
In the meantime, the disgraced teacher is back to blogging. Munroe has a new site up, complete with a post detailing the first day of the scandal and justifying her previous comments about students.
What do you think? Do teachers have the right to criticize students online, even if they do it anonymously? Or is it censorship to require them to keep their thoughts to themselves?