August 19, 2005
Oak Mountain High School Blocks Access to Popular Website that has Students Grading and Critiquing Their Teachers
BIRMINGHAM, AL - RateMyTeachers.com has quickly established itself in classrooms around the country as a useful resource for students, teachers, and parents alike. The site is an innovative idea, allowing students to share opinions and actually grade their teachers. Over fifty-thousand teachers, students, and parents alike log in to the site every day, but not in Oak Mountain High School, where officials have blocked access to RateMyTeachers.com on all school computers, even during student free time. The move raises interesting first amendment and student/parent rights questions.
RateMyTeachers currently boasts eight million teacher ratings, over one million teachers, and is currently in use at more than 46,400 middle schools and high schools across the United States and Canada. The site has been in operation since August 2001, quickly spreading across North America through word of mouth.
School computers and teacher salaries are paid for by the parents of Birmingham students in the form of tax dollars. By telling students they are not allowed to comment publicly on the performances of these teachers, school officials are treading on a thin line of censorship where they have no ownership or right to restrict such speech.
The Student Press Law Center, an advocate for student free press rights in Arlington, VA voiced concern over schools that block access to the site. “Allowing administrators to block access to Web sites where students can voice an opinion could have far-reaching implications. Educators could start to justify prohibiting students from voicing any opinion online by preventing access to high school newspaper editorials or participation in online opinion polls.”
Joel Gordon, an English teacher at Amsterdam High School in Amsterdam, NY believes RateMyTeachers "enfranchises our kids, gives voice to their long-stifled expressions in a subject area in which they have loads of experience and are eminently qualified to speak. These statistics are timely, relevant and 99% honest."
With the assistance of over 5000 student administrators, RateMyTeachers reviews every teacher rating before it is posted to the website. Any libelous, malicious or vulgar comments are removed. If a teacher is at odds with any rating, that person can easily flag the rating and comment for a second review.
Students have a keen interest in rating their teachers, and the extreme growth of the site is a testimonial to that interest. Do students have as much right to use RateMyTeachers as other popular websites such as Yahoo or Google - or is RateMyTeachers being unfairly targeted?
Oak Mountain High School on RateMyTeachers: