Great teacher + inappropriate web site?
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National School Boards Association. In Spring 2011 he was a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and Mind Dump, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at scottmcleod.net.
By anyone's measure, Mike Pearce appears
to be a phenomenal history teacher. His Ellison High
students in Killeen, Texas had a 99% passing rate on the state
history assessment this year. Part of his success is due to the incredible
wealth of self-created electronic resources that he employs in his classes. You
can see many of them on his web site, www.ushistorynut.com, including
multimedia PowerPoint presentations that have been featured in his local newspaper
and the ASCD Smartbrief e-mail newsletter:
As an educator and technology advocate, I wish there were more teachers like
As a school law guy, however, I'm also troubled by his web site because it
has a hyperlink to one pro-life web site, LifeNews.com, and has banner ads that link
to another, lovematters.com (click on
screenshot thumbnails for larger images):
This probably would be fine if his web
sitehad no connection to his school. But the site has notes to
students, links to his school and district, a hyperlink for parents to sign up
for his e-mail list, information for parents like his late homework policy and
school supply requests, the district calendar, his district e-mail address, etc.
He's very clearly using his site for pedagogical purposes, not just for
marketing of his PowerPoint presentations. And therein lies the problem because
his school and his district have a legal obligation to be politically and
Mr. Pearce does have a disclaimer way down at the bottom of his very lengthy
Disclaimer: This page was designed solely by Mr. Pearce at his own
expense and was neither approved nor sanctioned by the Killeen Independent
School District. The content of Mr. Pearce's site or webpages linked from his
site does not necessarily reflect the views of the Killeen Independent School
He also appears to be trying to be politically neutral. For example, his home
page links to many different political parties, news sources, and news
columnists. But nowhere does he seem to have any pro-choice links or ads, nor
does he have any explanation of why he has chosen to feature one side of this
political / religious / personal issue.
I have never met Mr. Pearce. All evidence points to him being an amazing
teacher. But I'm not sure his
disclaimer and the fact that it's his
personal web siteare enough to survive deep legal scrutiny, particularly as the publicity for what's he's doing increases. People are going to logically associate his web site with his school and school
district, neither of which could ever get away with links and banner ads for
pro-life web sites [as an aside, I'm not sure they could get away with links to
the various commercial entities featured on his site either].
I've blogged before about the
difficult issues related to school districts allowing and monitoring teachers'
use of off-campus web sites for pedagogical purposes. I think Mr. Pearce's
site illustrates the challenging questions that I raised in that post. In this
case, I think that he either needs to take his site down, remove all connections
to his school system, or remove the pro-life aspects. I don't think he can have
it all and still pass constitutional muster.
I'm willing to admit that maybe I'm going overboard here, so I'm asking a few
school law folks to lend their opinion on this, including Pamela Parker at Texas Teacher Law and Mike Tully at
I also have invited Mr. Pearce to tell us more about his site and whether he has received any complaints about the pro-life aspects of the site. Hopefully they
(and you) will have some time to lend some insights into this complex
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