Social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace provide outlets for people, especially young people, to vent the frustrations of everyday life--for example, a bad day at school. Sometimes, this venting can turn into teacher-bashing. Remarks or comments about a teacher can be extremely hurtful to that individual emotionally. It can also damage a teacher's reputation. Since the advent of these social networking sites, legal precedents have been set as to what actions a teacher bashed on Facebook or MySpace can take.
If the student posted the comment to Facebook or MySpace using a school computer, that student can be disciplined according to school policies. Bashing teachers on social networking sites has led to suspension and expulsion of the offenders. Students cannot make debasing claims or post hurtful remarks on school grounds, as this is a violation of the school policy.
When the hurtful or debasing remark is posted on a student's personal computer at home or outside of school grounds, the situation becomes much more complex. Schools that suspend or expel students for bashing teachers on social networking sites can find themselves involved in free speech suits. Such was the case of Donny Tobolski, who cast disparaging remarks about his teacher on Facebook and was suspended. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stepped in and brought a suit against the school on grounds that the suspension was a violation of the First Amendment.
Slander and Libel
If the remarks made against teachers damage the teacher's reputation or defame the teacher's character, a slander or libel suit can be taken against that student. Both actions require publication of the damaging remarks. When a person posts a comment on Facebook or MySpace, that remark has effectively been published for all the world to see. Therefore, a slander or libel suit would be within a teacher's legal rights against the student.
Cyber Bullying and Harassment
If the student goes beyond stating a negative opinion about a teacher and threatens physical harm, then it can be considered harassment or even a hate crime, depending on the nature of the comments. The teacher would then be able to take legal action as well as have the student suspended or expelled from school.