When students of human resources teacher Idalia Hernandez Ramos sat down for class one August day at their high school in northern Mexico, they assumed the lesson would be just like any other. Hernandez would probably give a lecture — or maybe a pop quiz. As the class unfolded, however, the students realized that Hernandez had a more important matter to settle.
Hernandez’s lesson for the day revolved around social media and how the misuse of social media can cause conflict and in some cases, the need for revenge. Hernandez had come across derogatory tweets about her posted on Twitter. The posts were written by one of her students sitting in class that day, and as that student and the rest of the world was about to find out, Hernandez had no intention of letting it slide.
Instead, Hernandez returned fire using none other than the same social media techniques that the student had used to insult her. As Hernandez began her confrontation, student bystanders pulled out their smartphones and captured the drama in an eight-minute video that has since gone viral and garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.
The video begins with Hernandez presenting the lesson for the day, but quickly escalates when Hernandez asks the offending student — who is unnamed because she is a minor — to read a statement about social media. Hernandez then proceeds to interrogate her about the harmfulness of social media and demand why the student had posted insults about her on Twitter.
She also demands that the student apologize to her in front of the cameras, to which the clearly embarrassed student admits that she was wrong to post such insults. But Hernandez won’t stop there — no, not without calling the offending student and another student who shared the posts “cowards,” repeating the vulgar insults back to the students and saying: “Listen to me well: I will not allow anyone to call me that, especially a young brat like you and you.”
Though Hernandez’s attack was not necessarily unwarranted, it was certainly inappropriate and outrageously excessive. Not only was the student humiliated in front of her friends and peers, but now also in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of online viewers. The Internet allows for that humiliation to extend so far beyond the classroom, a punishment that the student, who had already admitted to and apologized for the tweets, does not deserve.
Not only was Hernandez unfair to the student — she was downright rude to the entire class. The teacher attempted to make an example out of one student who disrespected her, but in doing so, she disrespected the rest of the students and their academic ambitions. Hernandez made a mockery of the classroom and deviated from undoubtedly important lesson plans in order to execute her own revenge.
No matter how angry she might have been, Hernandez should not pit students against each other and involve herself in a social media war with said students. As an educator, she should have been above that.
Her primary focus should have centered around her students and ensuring that they are able to learn in an academic environment each day. The student deserved to be chastised for her unkind posts, yes — but not in a way that would so publicly humiliate her. Hernandez behaved in an unprofessional manner when she allowed students to record the confrontation on their cameras, which basically encouraged posting and sharing the video.
Social media sites have already affected many aspects of everyday life, but what goes on inside of the classroom should be an exception. Both students and teachers should focus on providing the best possible learning experience and on maintaining an academic atmosphere at all times. Allowing students or teachers to record the goings-on of the classroom and turn them into social media sensations is simply irresponsible and unproductive to students’ educations.
Since the incident happened in August, Hernandez has been put on administrative leave, and the student was suspended for two weeks. The case is currently being reviewed by Mexican courts, but it might take up to four months for Hernandez’s fate to be decided.
Cecilia Callas is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column “Tech Talk” runs Wednesdays.
Follow her on Twitter @ceciliacallas