Maryland school employee fired for correcting student’s spelling on Twitter

Victor Skinner, 

FREDERICK, Md. – A Maryland school employee was fired last week after she jokingly corrected a student’s spelling on Twitter.

Frederick County Public Schools’ web experience coordinator Katie Nash thought she was doing what administrators wanted – engaging with students online – when she responded to a student Jan. 5 who wrote to the district’s account: “@FCPSMaryland, close school tammarow PLEASE.”

Nash shot back: “But then how would you learn to spell ‘tomorrow?’ :)”

“The students were tweeting back and forth, so it just sort of provided a natural opportunity to respond, in a fun, light-hearted way,” Nash told WHAG.

“We had received feedback from some students in a focus group that our tweeting was a bit flat, they were looking for some more engagement,” Nash said. “They were looking for us to tweet back at them and I really took that to heart because I know that I am a little bit older and maybe not as hip as some of the students are, so I took that to heart and I took that feedback in.”

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Many folks online thought the tweet was funny, and it was re-tweeted more than 1,000 times. It even spawned the hashtag #KatiefromFCPS.

But school officials apparently weren’t laughing. Administrators told Nash to delete the tweet, the district’s communication manager apologized to the student, and officials canceled her school social media privileges, The Frederick News-Post reports.

Nash continued to send out banal messages from the school district’s calendar, and other items already posted to the FCPS’s news alert system, but was called into a meeting last Friday and presented with a letter of termination.

“Dear Katie, this letter confirms our discussion today that your probation period as a Web Experience Coordinator for Frederick County Public Schools will not be extended,” the letter read. “You will be terminated from your assignment effective January 13, 2017.”

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FCPS spokesman Michael Doerrer confirmed Nash was fired, but refused to discuss the circumstances surrounding her departure, CBS Baltimore reports.

Nash, who earned $44,066 as a web experience coordinator, told the News-Post she was surprised by the termination because there was little discussion about how she was supposed to manage the district’s Twitter account. She later discussed the incident with the student, who was not offended by the tweet.

“As a new employee, I think I sort of would have expected that there would have been some counseling or some suggestions on how to improve,” she said.

“Any social media manager is looking for increasing engagement, and that’s sort of the expected parameter,” Nash said. “I think a conversation about how we engage with students would have been completely appropriate and I would have welcomed that.”

“Students have been tweeting at us, but I wasn’t really sure what I should be doing or not doing. I sort of assumed there would be a follow-up conversation” with her superiors, she said.

Regardless, Nash told the News-Post she doesn’t hold any ill will against FCPS and she plans to continue to engage students on Twitter as a parent of two in the district through her personal account, @KatieNash.

“It was really positive and great to see so many students engaged with their school system,” she said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”