Should I ask an employee to change his FB picture?
July 28, 2011 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Should I discuss my reportee's FB profile picture with him?

I am the assistant principal at an elementary school Recently, I became FBF with a colleague and upon viewing her friends, I came across the public profile of our science teacher, whom I supervise. His provocative profile picture is of him in front of an American flag, completely undressed, holding a towel in front of his crotch. This picture is public and he is searchable by his first and last name. Should I discuss this with him? Is it appropriate to ask him to change the photograph?
posted by anonymous to Education (25 answers total)
OMG yes, please tell him.
posted by sweetkid at 2:38 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

You can point him to this story, wherein a young teacher was fired over some considerably more, ah, innocuous photos and advise him that he should consider either making it private or taking it off.
posted by griphus at 2:41 PM on July 28, 2011

That's incredibly inappropriate. My sister is a school administrator. She told me her school's employee handbook forbids the teachers from having publicly visible facebook profiles entirely (I thinkā€”I forget the exact policy, but they do have one).
posted by adamrice at 2:42 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would tell him before a student's parent does.
posted by maryr at 2:45 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

If this were merely a colleague I think I would be hesitant to say anything about it, but as an assistant principal aren't you a little above the ranks of the teachers? I think being in a position of authority grants you, well, the authority to go ahead and tell him that his picture is inappropriate. There are privacy settings in Facebook that can be set to not allow anyone to view the profile pictures except for the displayed one; this teacher would be wise to figure those settings out.

He's lucky you saw the picture first and not someone less kind (or a student! or a student's parent! or the superintendent or something, gahhh).
posted by adrianna aria at 2:53 PM on July 28, 2011

If you were his supervisor at the box factory, no. The only person who might fire him is you, and it doesn't sound like you'd even consider that.

Since you're his supervisor at a school, yes. It's a pity that society is prudish enough to think that a silly picture indicates sexual deviance, but so it is. Better to talk to him now than have a much more serious conversation later when some squeamish parent sees this.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:02 PM on July 28, 2011

He's lucky you saw the picture first and not someone less kind (or a student! or a student's parent! or the superintendent or something, gahhh).

I guarantee that students have already seen it. High school kids spend every waking second on Facebook and you better believe they search for their teacher's names.
posted by theodolite at 3:04 PM on July 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

A friend of mine who is a teacher had a job offer rescinded because of his facebook info page. On it was a quote from a movie with the word "masturbation" on it. The superintendent of schools called him and told him he wouldn't be getting the job that had been offered to him earlier that day because of "inappropriate content" on facebook.

So, yeah. If it's something you don't want associated with this teacher, tell him he needs to change it.
posted by cooker girl at 3:07 PM on July 28, 2011

Does your district have a social media policy? If so, it almost certainly prohibits such a picture being publicly searchable. If not, you need one.

Either way, I would talk to him about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:45 PM on July 28, 2011

Since you're in an elementary school, I think you need to worry more because it's not so much the students at this age checking out their teachers online, but the parents who are doing it. While a high school student might think, "oh my teacher is cool", an elementary parent will be thinking just the opposite.

Not only should you speak to him about it, but maybe include a small presentation to your entire staff during their back to school inservices about their online presence and how it could affect them in an adverse way, especially if your district does not have any kind of policy regarding this. There may be other things out there that you haven't seen that should be tweaked, IYKWIM. And not just facebook, but show them how to google their name in quotes to see what else is out there that they are associated with.

There are tons articles out there that you can use to put together a short presentation to inform the instructors of what kinds of trouble they could get into.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:50 PM on July 28, 2011

Yes! Tell him now! I work in a a really laid back district that doesn't care what we do in our off-hours, but I think even if he were my colleague, I'd tell him.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:18 PM on July 28, 2011

Yeah, I would tell him before a student's parent does.

Or a local news agency on a slow day
posted by EatTheWeek at 4:28 PM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree you should give him a heads up (but why have you tagged this as sexual harassment?)
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:28 PM on July 28, 2011

As a former teacher, yes, dear FSM tell him, and why (the reasons above are all excellent). Tell him the same thing that I tell the kids I work with: All it takes is one jerk downloading that picture and reposting it elsewhere. Anything online should be considered public and living forever.
posted by smirkette at 5:59 PM on July 28, 2011

On thinking about it, you may want to (or be required to) report it to HR and let HR handle it. I know you're anon, but do you have a sense of whether in your district you should first handle these matters in the building and then go to central admin, or whether you go direct to central admin? You may also want to document you had the conversation with him. Again, if your district has a social media policy, you'll want to make sure you read that through first. But even without a social media policy, teachers can be reprimanded and even fired for "inappropriate" content on social networking sites.

I'm just a little nervous for you in terms of making sure you adequately cover your own ass.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, that's crazy. I would really question the overall judgement of an elementary school teacher (or anyone, really) who would think that was appropriate.

Definitely has to be addressed.
posted by BurntHombre at 6:38 PM on July 28, 2011

Yes. Even if you're not sure this falls under the purview of your duties, this is just being a good friend. If you don't tell him, one of his students will.
posted by GilloD at 7:43 PM on July 28, 2011

High school kids spend every waking second on Facebook and you better believe they search for their teacher's names.

While this is true, the OP works in an elementary school. I agree that in this situation, you need to be more worried about the parents than the kids. And I agree with the above re: a social media policy- if your school doesn't have some kind of social media policy, you should work towards implementing one. Kids are becoming active on sites like Facebook earlier than ever, and so are their parents- a stricter policy would ensure that these situations don't become a problem in the future.

When I was interning, we weren't allowed to have publicly searchable profiles, period. An acquaintance in a different field added his (high school) students on Facebook and ended up being blacklisted from the county he interned in and none of the professors from his program would write recommendations for him (it was a well known program, and the lack of recommendations from the well-connected professors caused him to move halfway across the country to find a job).
posted by kro at 8:22 PM on July 28, 2011

Offer to show him how to change his privacy settings.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:29 PM on July 28, 2011

Offer to show him how to change his privacy settings.

Profile pictures are still visible even with enhanced privacy settings. However, making himself unsearchable might help.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:30 PM on July 28, 2011

Keep an eye on this guy. I'm sure that won't be the only thing he does while in your employ that displays a mind-boggling lack of good judgement.
posted by flabdablet at 11:28 PM on July 28, 2011

It is also possible that someone created a fake profile in this guy's name to get him in trouble.
posted by zippy at 12:54 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your district has a policy that allows you to determine what teachers do on non-school time, with non-school related resources, then maybe the answer is yes. I'm not your lawyer, but I suggest you seek some guidance from your legal/HR/central offices. I don't think it's at all appropriate for you to do so, but your supervisors may have different ideas-
posted by mrs. taters at 7:04 AM on July 29, 2011

mrs. taters, do you work in a school environment? Because policies restricting teachers' use of social media *when students might see it* are quite common and legal, and courts have been very friendly to schools restricting teachers' use, or even punishing teachers for ill-advised use, *even in the absence of a policy.*

(Moreover, most schools these days restrict what STUDENTS can do on non-school time with non-school resources when it comes to social media -- and many states have LAWS about what students can do with social media on their own time with their own resources, in their newish bullying statutes.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:22 AM on July 29, 2011

Maybe this would be a good opportunity to discuss social media etiquette with all employees.
posted by radioamy at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2011

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