Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teacher and ACLU reach Agreement

The American Civil Liberties Union has reached an agreement with the Brownsville Area school district who suspended a teacher because photographs of her with a stripper appeared online.

Ginger D’Amico, a high school Spanish teacher in Fayette County was penalized after images of her with a stripper at a bachelorette party she hosted for a fellow teacher were posted on Facebook. The photos were posted by another school district employee and were online for less than a day. She was suspended for 30 school days without pay because hers was the only identifiable face in the photos.
"That’s the first time I’ve ever been in any kind of trouble in 14 years of teaching. I really was devastated because I really take pride in being a good teacher and a mentor and it kind of ripped my heart out," she said.

D’Amico’s record was cleared and she will be paid back wages for the time she was suspended. She will also get a $10,000 dollar settlement that will be split with the ACLU, who provided her legal representation.

Vic Walczak, legal director for Pennsylvania’s ACLU says the question raised is to what extent public employers discipline employees for off-duty conduct. Legally, he says this is a gray area.

"There needs to be a line that restricts public employers from being allowed to punish employees only if they do something that substantially harms the employer and emloyee’s ability to do their job," he said.

Butch Santicola, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association says this is a recurring problem with teachers.

"The technology that’s out there with the cell phones and cameras and pictures are being taken, facebook, twitter all of them, we’re very cautious of that and we need to be very very cautious of that," he said.
Other school district employees received disciplinary letters. Their arbitration is scheduled for September.

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