Principal warns students over social media comments

A Dieppe high school principal is warning students to be careful what they post on social media sites, such as Facebook, about their teachers.

Last week, Michel Power, the principal of Ecole Mathieu-Martin, sent a notice home to parents saying that students were posting inappropriate messages about teachers and there could be consequences to those online musings in the future.

Power wouldn't comment on the nature of the posts on Wednesday, but he said if the posts didn't stop that students could end up in court.

The fact that students post negative comments about some of their teachers is hardly news to many students.

Sebastien Alary, a student at Mathieu-Martin, said his classmates often gather after school and post negative comments about teachers on Twitter and Facebook.

"I don't think they think about what is going to happen after that. They are just thinking of the moment,” Alary said.

Students can be criminally charged for threatening comments they post on these social media sites, according to the RCMP.

However, a police spokesman said criticizing teachers on the internet is a legal grey area.

Greg Ingersoll, the superintendent of the Anglophone East School District, said his district has dealt with several threats against teachers on social media sites.

"The RCMP have contacted the parents and told them to take the site down and told them what the consequences would be if they did not take it down,” Ingersoll said.

The province’s teachers’ union is hoping the provincial government will step in with some strong rules to clarify any legal grey areas and protect teachers.

Heather Smith, the president of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association, said her members have very little recourse to deal with comments that damage their reputation.

She said the Department of Education needs to bring in a policy against it.

"Then there would be some way to deal with those who are posting whether it be students, parents or whomever,” she said.

A provincial policy is the preferred course of action, Smith said, because most teachers are not interested in taking a student to court over defamatory statements made on social media sites.

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