Carol Thebarge worked for 30 years in the Claremont school system in New Hampshire before leaving her position Friday of last week after she refused to unfriend students on Facebook. Ms. Thebarge, who had been a substitute teacher at Stevens High School, says she was given an ultimatum to disconnect fromthe students or face dismissal. As WMUR-TV reports, the teacher didn’t feel she should give in and now is out of a job she loved.
Ms. Thebarge joined Facebook five years ago, and over that time amassed a collection of friends that included current and former students. She felt that it was a good way to be connected to her students, and it appears those who have been in her classroom agree. WMUR spoke with her former student, Taylor Anderson. Ms. Anderson said, “Facebook is a great way to communicate with people when you’re going through stuff at home. There’s tons of kids in Claremont high schools that are going through stuff at home that need someone like Ms. T to talk to.”
Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin was quick to praise Thebarge as an educator, but said that her good standing in the community did not give her license to violate the district’s social media policies. These policies came about after another teacher in the system, Christopher LeBlanc, was accused of sexual assault against a student. An investigation by police showed LeBlanc emailed the student several times. Dr. McGoodwin told WMUR, “One of the benefits of an unfortunate event such as the Chris LeBlanc matter is that it heightens our awareness of behavior in others that may be crossing lines established by policy.” Ms. Thebarge claims she has never been inappropriate with her online connection to the student body.
On Friday, Ms. Thebarge posted on Facebook, “I will continue to stay in touch with all of them here. No man or institution will dictate my relationships here, or otherwise that are within the range of my own consciousness. This is not rebellion. It is standing up for my beliefs ... for silence and compliance is agreement.” The teacher says she will not fight the dismissal, but hopes that the school district will take another look at their policy.
More info: WMUR