Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beaver Dam teacher on leave for Facebook photo

One of the 25 random things the Beaver Dam School District does not want to know about their teachers is what they look like pointing rifles.

Or at least that seems to be the idea behind the administrative leave given to Beaver Dam Middle School teacher who posted a Facebook profile picture of her holdling a rifle.

School safety is important, but so is the freedom of people (even teachers) to express themselves on their own time.

The context of the photo, which shows Ramsdale training the rifle toward the camera, involves the fact that her page is both personal and that she is a gun enthusiast. News reports haven't detailed any other grounds for concern about the teacher's behavior or any sinister intent.

“Absent any evidence that the teacher poses a threat, the district should not over-react to the sight of a gun in one of their employee’s hands,” said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin today.

The ACLU took student off-campus expression to the Supreme Court in the narrowly decided Morse v. Frederick case (more famously known as the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"). With student expression on trial, the court sided with arguments that if the content of the expression alluded to things that were against school rules, students can't say it even if it is at a non-official or off-campus event.

This same logic seems to be applying to the teacher's Facebook picture: while weapons aren't allowed in school to protect students' safety, where is the protection for teachers' off-duty expression?