This article was originally featured on VICE Canada
A set of guidelines handed out to teachers by Ottawa's public school board last week reportedly identify photos posted on social depicting drugs, alcohol, or being "scantily clad" on the beach as unacceptable professional behaviour.
You might be thinking, "that's bullshit." But there is some precedence to it.
According to the National Post, the guidelines are in response to a growing concern that social media accounts of teachers often go unchecked, and can reflect poorly if the behaviour displayed online—even if while off-duty—is not in line with how a teacher presents in a professional environment.
In a 1996 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada found it acceptable for teachers to be held at a higher professional standard than other professions (like, a journalist, for example), and can therefore be expected to censor themselves outside of the classroom more than typical.
Cases that might fall under this definition aren't uncommon: in September, a group of Markham, Ontario, teachers were put on blast for throwing up middle fingers while posing for a photo after a session of axe-throwing; in 2014, an Edmonton, Alberta, principal was reprimanded for posting a vacation photo in she pretended to jerk off the Washington Monument (while a man was lying in a way so that the District of Columbia building looked like an erection).
"It's always been that way, that's nothing new. Teachers have been told that since I've been in the profession: your private and personal life also needs to be somewhat above reproach," Janet Frances, president of Ottawa-Carleton division of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), told the Post. "[T]hat is certainly what our union would tell teachers, and it's what the board would tell them."
The new guidelines are not clear in what it takes to pass as a "scantily clad" photo, but based on past examples, it likely means women in anything but a blouse. In the US, accusations of sexism in regards to how hot teachers are treated are common, and it's hard to imagine your 45-year-old male gym teacher would be in the same shit for a beach photo as a woman in a bikini.
Without getting specific, recommendations set out by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) advise teachers to tread lightly when posting on social media, noting that "inappropriate" and "sexual" material either posted online or sent electronically can result in severe ramifications for teachers—even if the intention is harmless.
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