Crisis Communication

Crisis in the News: Facebook status gets public school employee fired

Posted on: January 29, 2009

Crisis in the News
Facebook status gets public school employee fired

What’s in the news

What you say isn’t as private as it used to be, especially with the use of social media.

In December, Morgan Wyhowski updated her Facebook status to say: “Morgan wants to kill her ninth grade flute player who stole the school’s $900 dollar piccolo, and is denying it.”

Wyhowski, the band director for grades six through 12, resigned from Bangor Public Schools after being placed on administrative leave. Criminal charges are not being pursued.

The police chief said it was not an actual threat.

See the entire story here: Bangor band director resigns after posting message on Facebook page she wanted to ‘kill’ student

Crisis communication perspective

Wyhowski, who is 23 according to Wood TV 8, resigned from Bangor Public Schools. This was probably best route for both her and the schools because:

  • It stopped the situation from becoming a crisis
  • It avoided them having to terminate a teacher
  • She will likely be able to find another job
  • The crisis will likely evaporate because parents won’t be arguing that the teacher should leave

Millenials, like Wyhowski, use social media to communicate with friends. I’m sure Wyhowski did not expect that anyone, other than friends, would see her post. For this generation, posting a Facebook status in an everyday activity.

Unfortunately, school employees getting fired due to their Facebook postings isn’t unusual. One teacher faced termination after posting “teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte.” The Washington Post reported on several teachers who had derogatory and inappropriate things posted on the MySpace, Facebook and YouTube accounts.

The best route for schools and other employers to go in the future is the provide warnings to all employees about what is and isn’t appropriate. It might also be suggested that employees place all of their social networks to a private setting if they might post something inappropriate.

Perhaps there should be a “social media” section in the employee handbook. Some argue that workplace life and social life are two separate places, but even outside of work an employee is a representative of their employer.

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