Monday, October 8, 2012

Something's Changed

Has anyone noticed a common thread between the stories of Patricia Dawson and Tiffany Webb (I've gone to some lengths to make sure her picture isn't posted in that link, btw)?

I see three things worth mentioning.

1. They're both describe as 'highly regarded'. It used to be that the department would only go after the type of professionals who they could describe as bad. This would make it easy for the average guy reading the paper on the way to work in the morning to say to himself 'eh, well..sounds like a bad teacher to me'.

It doesn't look the DOE is making any qualms about going after good, effective professionals anymore. They just don't seem to care about how the they or the department as a whole will be perceived. That's a shift. They're going after the good ones now. That's a real big shift.

2. Both cases associated with the internet. Webb's pictures had been circulating the internet for years (without her consent long after she stopped modeling). Dawson's comments came across Facebook (not just the internet, but that ubiquitous social network).

It's looking pretty clear that the DOE is is paranoid beyond reason about the effect the internet may have when it comes to their employees. While on one level, this may be a perfectly genuine concern (how does an institution as big as this grapple with the effects of inter connectivity?), it has to be pointed out that they are using their equivalent of their criminal prosecution arm in order to address this dilemma.  That's abuse (imagine Mubarak turning to his one of his police forces to address the internet (Oh, wait, you can't. it already happened)). That's simple abuse.

But why are they paranoid about anything that comes across the internet?Well,  if you ask fellow blogger The Assailed Teacher, it's because the department desperately wants to establish guidelines concerning employees and the internet that they simply can't establish through the normal process writing of rules (because some of the rules they might want to create would cross the line of limiting speech that would otherwise be free).

His reasoning -which I have to say I agree with-is that in order to establish these guidelines, they have to rely on the department's version of judicial precedent -which partially comes from the decisions from 3020A hearings. Essentially, there are almost no guidelines for charging anyone and getting them to a 3020A hearing (where Ms. Dawson landed). At the end of that hearing, if the arbitrator issues findings that the act was wrong (such as Ms. Dawson's comment on Facebook), then the department wins -even if the employee isn't fired.

Speech is limited, but the rule is established. I hate to say this, but I agree with the reasoning -and with the explanation.

(PS) 3. more thing worth mentioning. Ms. Dawson's story is an example of what happens when the DOE charges someone WITH tenure. Ms. Webb's story? Well that's what happens when they charge someone withOUT tenure. In case you can't see the difference, let me explain it: Ms. Dawson still has her job with the DOE. Ms. Webb does not -and she is 100% innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Something's changed here.

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