Natalie Munroe: A Tale of a Teacher in a Digital Age
“I couldn’t find the class blog, but I found this,” he told Munroe the next day. “Is it yours?”
“Yes,” he said she told him. “It’s a private blog. Just for friends of mine.”
But by midnight on February 8th, it seemed as if all 1,650 kids at East had clicked the link. Some even snapped screenshots of the pages so that if Munroe took it down, they’d still have proof. They read it all: She chastised administrators and colleagues—“Fuck them!” “Assholes”; she labeled students “dishonest shitwads,” “a disgusting brood of insolent, unappreciative, selfish brats,” “the devil’s spawn.”
In the January 21, 2010, post that would soon become infamous, she explained that, while she typically wrote “cooperative in class” on most report cards, she wished she could write other things: “Rude beligerent [sic] argumentative fuck,” “Am concerned your kid is going to come in one day and open fire on the school. (Wish I was kidding.),” “Dresses like a streetwalker,” “There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.”
That Tuesday night, students punched back online:
Jokes on you because this link is being cycled throughout the students of CB East via facebook. Have fun applying for unemployment. Sincerely, ‘cooperative in class.’
… [S]he probably found a piece of toilet paper in the trash that a guy cleaned up after himself with and impregnated herself.
I originally didn’t completely loath you like the rest of the junior class, but my feelings have now changed.
Principal Lucabaugh didn’t read any of it until the following morning. By then, messages from angry parents filled his voice-mail, some requesting their kids be removed from Munroe’s classroom. He printed out the blog posts and started reading.
“I couldn’t imagine that an educator would feel this way—and then post it with that kind of vitriol,” he says.
He actually hoped it was a mistake, that the teacher wasn’t Munroe. He thought he’d been so clear, warning his staff to be careful about what they posted online. But the school’s official policy applied only to using district computers: “Employees may not use the district network, computer devices or other resources for personal activities.”
The website for Pennsylvania’s teacher’s union lists clearer guidelines: “Each time you post a photograph or information on the Web, make sure you would gladly show it to the following people: your mother, your students, your superintendent, the editor of the New York Times.” Further, it states that an employee’s speech is not protected online if “it causes disruption in the workplace.”
What defined “disruption”? Students rushing around with copies of a teacher’s blog? News vans parking outside school? Students asking teachers, “Do all of you think this way about us?”