MySpace may be a great resource for keeping in touch with friends, profiling your life, and generally having fun. But what you do, say, and display on the site could cost you big. As is the case with Stacy Snyder, who was denied a teaching degree after a photo of her drinking was displayed on the site.
Snyder was a 21-year-old student teacher Conestoga Valley High School in Pennsylvania while trying to gain a bachelor’s degree in education at Millersville University. She was, to all intents and purposes, a friendly and welcoming teacher who bonded with her students thanks to the proximity in age, and her general outlook on life.
However, she received poor evaluations regarding her professionalism in class, and the school ended her semester-long teaching assignment early, before barring her from campus. Millersville University consequently denied Snyder the teaching degree she’d worked hard for, and instead awarded her a BA in English.
A pretty boring story really, but then there’s a twist in the tale. Rather than being thrown off her teaching assignment and chucked off campus over the poor evaluations, she suffered these ignominies due to a photo on her MySpace profile, the address of which she often gave out to her students.
The picture showed Snyder standing drinking a cocktail while wearing a pirate hat. with a caption underneath declaring “Drunken pirate.” These were accompanied by notes discussing her relationship with her supervisor. These were enough to see Snyder fired from her teaching post, meaning she could no longer graduate as a teacher.
Snyder sued her school, but the judge eventually rejected all of her claims, including her argument that her First Amendment right to free expression had been violated. According to ReadWriteWeb, the reason for this judgment is that employees’ free speech is only protected if it relates to matters of public concern. Unfortunately for Snyder, the picture and accompanying notes did not.
This is worrying, because while the photo and notes were likely only the straw that broke the camel’s back, with the poor evaluations clearly contributing, the fact that MySpace can be used against someone in this way stinks.
My advice to anyone concerned about this happening to them would be to make sure your privacy settings are turned up to the maximum, and to avoid posting any pictures of you dressed as a drunken pirate. Advice we should all heed, teaching student or otherwise.