A Screenshot is Forever

Updated at 2:25 PM on 1/26/16: From GPB, Rep. Jason Spencer has released a statement: 

Updated at 11:55 AM on 1/26/16: Maureen Downey reports that Jeremy Spencer is no longer employed by the DOE. From Superintendent Woods’ statement: “These posts in no way reflect my opinions, or those of the Department of Education.”

There are several ways for an elected or appointed official to approach social media. On Facebook, many maintain two separate accounts: a personal one that’s limited to family and friends – and by “friends,” I mean actual friends, people with whom you went to college or high school with, or worked with, or anyone whose phone number you use for non-work-related conversations – and an “official” Facebook account used strictly for political or campaign updates. Sometimes, though, someone in a public role will decide to maintain just one Facebook account where, along with Aunt Bertha, their next-door neighbor, their boss, their elementary school bus seatmate, and any constituent or stakeholder, they can post whatever they want, regardless of whether it’s personal or work-related.

Which brings us to Jeremy Spencer. As the AJC’s Maureen Downey reported yesterday, Spencer is the Associate Superintendent of Virtual Instruction for the Georgia Department of Education (and is the twin brother of state Representative Jason Spencer), and was hired by state school Superintendent Richard Woods one year ago with a salary of $138,000. On Spencer’s Facebook page (which has since been scrubbed, but the screenshots live on in Downey’s post) he clearly identified his position – and by “position,” I mean his position with the DOE, along with his positions on white people, the Black Lives Matter movement, the gay pride Festivus pole, lynchings, Muslims, and the Big Lebowski. One of the most outrageous posts, a vintage image of a lynching, was posted by a friend of Spencer’s underneath an anti-Obama political cartoon that Spencer posted, but as anyone on Facebook knows, if someone posts something dumb (or racist, or NSFW) on your Facebook page, it is super easy to just delete it. Spencer left the photo in his comments for more than two months.

Downey’s blog post offers additional insight, and screenshots:

Spencer identifies himself as a DOE leader on his Facebook page and shares DOE news and announcements among his posts about minorities, guns, deportation of immigrants, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Many of Spencer’s posts speak directly to Georgia educators about DOE issues and programs, so he was aware his Facebook page was being read by teachers around the state.

Earlier today, I called DOE spokesman Matt Cardoza who was unaware of the posts and said he would find out whether they violated any DOE or state policies. I also sent copies of his posts to Spencer for comment.

Within 80 minutes of my calls and emails to DOE, Spencer’s Facebook page disappeared. As many teachers on the blog have stated, social media is a minefield that has to be navigated with caution. Spencer’s posts represent controversial content for anyone to post, never mind a high-level, high-profile state official.

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