Social Media Situation Survival Kit
First of all, I'm so sorry this is happening to you.
Libs of TikTok? Eye Inside the Classroom? Fox News? DailyMail? Doesn't matter. Here's what I recommend you do next.
Just to be explicitly clear, I am not giving legal advice. I'm speaking from first person experience, but I am part of a strong union. Basically, what worked for me might not work for you.
If you receive a request for comment...
Do not respond to the email. Most districts would not appreciate you speaking to the press without their permission.
Forward the email to your admin and request a meeting. This will be easier to explain in person than over email. More details on what to talk about during the meeting below. Your admin gets paid a lot more than you - this is a six-figure problem.
If you have one, forward the email to your union organizer. They are going to be your best buddy during this process.
Principal Meeting Basics
If you have a union, be sure to ask, "Will this meeting result in disciplinary action?" If they say yes, grab your steward before the meeting.
Your principal is going to be confused. Unless they follow you on TikTok, they won't fully understand what Teacher TikTok is about. Speak from the heart. Explain what the community means to you. TikTok has a questionable reputation.
Try to remain calm. If you haven't violated your contract, then you haven't done anything wrong. Even if you have violated your contract, such as using social media during school hours, you may still escape disciplinary action.
People don't like being surprised. Prep the principal for likely fall-out from the article. People could call the school office, send emails, letters, maybe even picket the school. In most cases, this lasts for less than 48 hours.
Here are few questions you should ask you principal:
Can you take my information off of school and district websites temporarily?
Can we put our school affiliated social media on private for a little while?
How will the clerks handle phone calls?
How would you like me to handle threatening emails? Do I need to forward them to you or to the tech team? Archive the emails? Just block and delete?
How can we encourage staff to stand in solidarity with me or what is the plan for dealing with staff?
I got posted or I got an article written about me. What should I do now?
Try not to panic. I know that's a dumb thing to say but try. In all honesty, it usually blows over in about 48 hours. You will survive this.
Lock down your socials. People are going to try to find you everywhere. I received a harassing message on LinkedIn! Google yourself, see where you come up, and then lock it all down.
Start scrubbing your phone number and address from the internet. Here are a few of the more popular sites to look up people's info. These are direct links for opting-out. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a place to start.
Get a trusted coworker to open and read your work emails. Ask them to actually open and read the emails because the subject lines can be misleading. They should report the emails as junk, block the sender, delete the email and then delete the email from your junk mail.
Alternatively, print the emails and save them in a file. Optional: sign all the senders up for various mailing lists.
Disable your voicemail and do not answer calls from numbers you don't recognize. If you do receive any phone calls, keep a list of the numbers and block the callers. Ask a trusted friend to listen to (and delete) the voicemails for you.
Ask a trusted friend or group of friends to monitor the comment sections on social media (Twitter and Facebook specifically). Tell them to report any instances of people sharing your private info, like addresses or phone numbers, or directly threatening you or your school.
Ask your community not to engage with the post or article on social media. This is SO HARD because people want to defend you, but the algorithm does not care why a person is interacting. Any engagement boosts the post, so kindly request that they do not engage. If they really want to do something helpful, they can email your principal and school board about what a great person you are.
DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS (TODAY). I eventually read all the comments because I'm just like that, but, for your sanity, DO NOT read them the day it is happening.
If you don't feel safe at home, stay somewhere else. You're probably fine, but... you know. I get it. We stayed with my boyfriend's parents the first night.
Try to do something enjoyable or schedule something enjoyable in the next few days. It's going to feel like everyone is staring at you or that everyone knows what happened but unless you live in a tiny town, probably no one has any idea. The night my Fox article dropped, we went to the movies. I recommend it.
One more thing -- It's okay to just take a rest! Your body is going to be in fight-or-flight mode because of all the adrenaline. Be gentle with yourself.
Do I have any legal recourse?
Probably not. In some states, teachers are considered public figures, and as such are held to higher burdens of proof in libel cases. For more info, check out this article from The First Amendment Encyclopedia.
I have heard of some people getting Libs of TikTok to take their videos down by emailing her to claim she is violating their copyright. Personally, I have never pursued this.
What is the union doing to help?
Several educators who have been targeted recently are members of NEA. We have been in contact with NEA to insist that they provide additional support and guidance for their members who have been targeted. If you are a member of NEA, be sure to let them know that this happened to you.
I will update this page when I know more about their plan.
Who are these people anyway?
There are two major groups of people who make their living "exposing" teachers: Twitter accounts and Fox News.
The two main Twitter accounts who focus on teachers are Libs of TikTok and Eye Inside the Classroom. Libs of TikTok has ballooned to nearly 2 million followers and is run by a woman named Chaya Raichik. Eye Inside the Classroom is a much smaller account, with about 25,000 followers. The account is run anonymously by a man in Texas. Both accounts are proudly and loudly transphobic and regularly claim that teachers are "grooming" students to be trans.
Libs of TikTok typically posts 3-4 times a day and usually posts 1-2 different teachers a week. Since the account has become more popular, she is being more judicious about the content she posts. She is more careful about the comments she adds to the videos and often says nothing and allows the videos to "speak for themselves". There was a period of time when she would crop the videos to remove the original creator's watermark (and username), but she has gone away from that recently.
Eye Inside the Classroom posts much more frequently and often gets in fights in the comment section of his own posts. His engagement is much smaller, but occasionally his videos get retweeted by Libs of TikTok. He will often target specific teachers for several months. He will put a large watermark on the videos he posts.
My videos have been on Libs of TikTok twice. The first time, I had no idea it had even happened, except I got a spike in hateful comments on my TikTok videos. However, this was nearly two years ago and Libs has grown exponentially since then.
One of the impacts of being on Libs of TikTok is that other news organizations can pick up your "story" and write their own pieces. That's what happened to me after the first Libs posting. A local far-right news source wrote a pretty sensational piece about me. It was released in the summer so I didn't even know about it until I randomly Googled myself one day.
The worst of all of these is Fox News, mostly because their articles get picked up and recirculated among various websites and their readers see themselves as vigilantes. I received the most emails, letters, and phone calls after being written about on Fox. The communication from Fox News readers was sent to my school as well as my home address, personal email, and personal cell phone, as well as all of my socials. And let's just say, they weren't writing letters of recommendation...
Right now, the writer at Fox New Digital who is assigned to finding and reporting on "deviant" teachers is Hannah Grossman. Hannah's articles seem to follow a pattern: 2-3 paragraphs about the teacher in question, 1 paragraph analyzing the statement from the district, and then several paragraphs recycling parts of her previous articles to attempt to establish a pattern of "woke-ism" in education.
Typically, Hannah reaches out for comment before writing her articles. When she contacted me, I received an email requesting comment that was sent to my principal and our lead clerk. However, I have also heard that she will sometimes just reach out to the principal.
Why are these groups targeting teachers?
I've thought a lot about this. Their intention, as they see it, is to protect children. They see woke-ism as a plague on society, and public schools as the primary driver of woke-ism in American society.
These groups seek to undermine the institution of public education. They want the average person to view their local public school with suspicion. They want this because they want to privatize education. They want to privatize education because they want to make money on education, they want to codify class divisions, and/or they want to segregate schools.
This was... a lot. How do I avoid getting mixed up in all of this?
First and foremost, follow your district's social media policy as it is written.
If your following starts to grow, tell your principal, especially if you are posting teacher content.
Do not assume that just because you don't have a lot of followers, then you will not be a target. Libs of TikTok regularly posts educators with fewer than 3,000 followers.
Turn off downloads for your videos. This is more a speed bump than anything else because they can still screen record you, but it does show more intent on their part if they have to do that extra step.