A lesson for us all

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By Optic Editorial Board

If you’ve watched the television news in the past few days or picked up a newspaper, you likely know about Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks’ troubles.

Brooks and state Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera have traded barbs regularly in recent years. At the heart of their dispute is disagreement over how to reform schools in this state.

But Brooks crossed the line last week when he posted comments on his Twitter account comparing Skandera to a farm animal.

“Maybe Skandy can go out to the livestock truck,” he wrote, followed by the words “moo, moo, Oink, oink.”

To add insult to injury, an APS employee who handles social media for the district proceeded to post images of farm animals.

Brooks’ posts have some calling for him to be fired.

The APS board isn’t ready to sever ties with Brooks yet, though it did suspend him without pay for three days. The board also placed a letter of reprimand in the superintendent’s personnel file.

And the board is asking personnel to review and improve the district’s social media policy.

As the superintendent of the state’s largest school district, Brooks should have known better. His behavior reflects poorly on the district he heads and sets a bad example.

Worse yet, his tweets are an unnecessary distraction, taking the focus away from school reform and the controversial teacher evaluation system the state is implementing.

This incident is a classic example of what can go wrong when one is posting off-the-cuff remarks on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

And it’s not just high-level officials who are getting in trouble.

One APS teacher was suspended last week for posting on her Facebook page that she could kill her students. A Robertson High School teacher got into similar trouble in recent years for posting disparaging remarks about one of her students. That teacher ended up losing her job.

There are lessons to be learned from each of these incidents.

First, school districts, other public agencies and even companies should review their social media policies and advise their employees of what those policies are and of the fact that their posts and tweets can land them in hot water.

Second, we all need to use common sense when we’re posting to social media sites. We might think we’re having a conversation with our closest friends when we post to these sites. In fact, it’s the equivalent of speaking loudly in a crowded room where everyone can hear you. Don’t give people ammunition to use against you.