Among the reasons that many elect to become teachers is the enticing one: teaching is a secure job. Thanks to tenure, a protection for teachers that makes it difficult for them to be fired, keeping a teaching job is generally a sure thing. This doesn’t mean, however, that teachers cannot be dismissed. There are a number of situations for which teachers -- both those that have not yet acquired tenure and those protected by this umbrella -- can be presented a pink slip.
Social Networking Overshares
As many type away, fingers on fire, drafting a new status update or tweet as a means of venting some frustration, they do so thinking that they are merely sharing their musings with their closest friends. Unfortunately for teachers, making this assumption could cost them their jobs. As Mike Simpson reported for the National Education Association, teachers -- particularly those who are not yet tenured -- can and do lose their jobs for lapses in social networking judgment. Examples of social-media fueled dismissals pop up across the country. In Columbus, Ohio, for instance, a teacher who talked about her sexual escapade on MySpace was ultimately let go. Another teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, who labeled her school “the most ghetto,” narrowly avoided this fate.
Teachers are held to a stricter standard of behavior than the average employee. These individuals work one-on-one with students and, as such, are expected to exemplify morality. There are a number of criminal activities for which a teacher can be dismissed. Any teacher who is convicted of a felony, for example, can be dismissed from her job. Particularly egregious are crimes that in any way involve children, including possession or distribution of pornography containing images of minors or statutory rape. In the interest of protecting children, teachers who are suspected of such crimes are generally suspended and, if proven guilty, permanently dismissed from their jobs.
When a teacher is tenured, dismissal is difficult. Many states, recognizing the value of getting rid of the underperformers, are working to change this. Oklahoma legislators took efforts to make it easier for schools to fire teachers for under-performance in 2011 by working to reduce the number of appeals a dismissed teacher receives -- as each appeal costs money, leaving many schools unwilling to try to get rid of poor-quality teachers. While it is still difficult in many states, including Oklahoma, to fire under-performing teachers, it can still be done.
Reduction in Force
Teachers aren’t always to blame for their dismissal. As school districts tighten their belts, many are forced to rif teachers. “Riffing,” as any teacher who has ever been employed in a low-on-funds-district knows, is education-speak for a layoff. Generally, when it is time to reduce teaching forces, the last teachers in are the first teachers out. This may mean that a hot-shot new teacher who is doing everything right is dismissed and an older teacher keeps his job.
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