Social media is a lot like any form of electronic communication, whether that be email, texts, or instant messaging. Mainly, it's often hard to discern the true meaning or the true motivation behind a post. Out of context, a joke may take on a life of its own, even if the poster never intended any harm.
That may be the case for an Akron, Ohio middle school teacher.
Melissa Cairns is facing termination after posting a now-controversial photo to her personal Facebook account. In October of last year, Cairns posted a photo of some of her students with duct tape over their mouths. A caption read, “Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!”
After a colleague informed the school administration of the photo, Cairns was placed on paid leave. Last week, the school board voted to pursue termination and will rule on her future as an educator on January 28th.
The photo has since been deleted from her Facebook account.
According to Cairns, the whole thing was a joke. But of course, she now regrets her indiscretion.
Apparently, she gave a student a piece of tape in order to repair a broken binder. The student then jokingly placed it over her mouth.
"The other kids in the class thought it was funny also, and they proceeded to pass the tape and scissors around the class. The students, the majority of the class, ended up putting a piece of duct tape across their mouth," said Cairns.
About 2/3 of the class reportedly participated in the picture.
"Do I feel that this one, stupid mistake should cost me the last 10 years of all the good I've done? Absolutely not," Cairns told ABC 15.
The school board is not only concerned about the fact that students were duct-taped in class, but also about the privacy implication of posting their photo on Facebook.
It seems unlikely that Cairns posted this photo with any other motivation than as a joke. But this just goes to show, jokes on Facebook, especially when then involve minors, can really backfire.