The 23-year-old math teacher at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado who is in hot water with Cherry Creek School District officials for tweeting racy photos of herself as well as posting about drug use was put on paid leave by the district, but some of her students -- and fans -- are standing by her on Twitter in her time of need using the hashtag #FreeCrunkBear to show their support.
9News reports that some of Carly McKinney's students don't think she should be punished for what she pursues in her free time outside of school hours. "It's a teacher that's only five or six years older than our oldest students," an Overland High School student named Shaun told 9News. "So we kind of relate to her on a personal level."
Even some of McKinney's fellow teachers told 9News that they support her right to free speech and don't think she should be fired over her tweets.
The #FreeCrunkBear" hashtag comes from McKinney's now deleted Twitter page where she went by @Crunk_Bear. Here are some of the supportive tweets since the news broke that McKinney's behavior was going to be investigated by the school district (WARNING: Some photos NSFW):
— Katie Patrick (@KatiePatrick2) January 30, 2013
— djdstruk (@djdstruk) January 30, 2013
— Sarah Mullens (@smull18) January 31, 2013
— dulce (@obeyy_this) January 29, 2013
Even hip-hop DJ Diplo, who retweeted one McKinney's earlier racy tweets, posted some support:
Diplo's tweet had already received more than 300 retweets at the time of publishing.
Although McKinney's original Twitter page has been taken down, a Google search of the handle reveals many of the high school math teacher's racy photos, tweets as well as her Twitter bio, still cached:
The latest from CarlyCrunkBear (@Crunk_Bear). Crunker than most. Stay sexy. Stay high. Stay drunk. Stay free. Stay trippy.✌❤. Mile High City.
One provocative post that was retweeted by hip-hop DJ Diplo just yesterday included a link to a photo of a semi-nude woman standing on her arms performing a dance move called "twerking." (WARNING: Image is NSFW)
Another retweet from the teacher appears to be her discussing a student who found her attractive:
We shall call you jailbait warrior "@crunk_bear: Just got called Ms. McCutie. Points for being clever, however you are still jailbait."
— Matthew Bryson (@Matty_B23) January 28, 2013
Fox31 reports that several of the photos tweeted depict a young woman, presumably the teacher, occasionally topless, occasionally drinking what appears to be alcoholic beverages and sometimes smoking what looks like marijuana.
One post said that the person tweeting was high while grading papers, another described the irony of a drug bust on school property while the person behind the tweets claims she had marijuana in her car in the staff parking lot.
9News spoke with the teacher herself who said she and a friend did create the Twitter account, but it was meant to be a parody. The teacher also said she was not aware of some of the posts that her friend was making on her behalf and never had drugs on campus.
Nothing that the 23-year-old math teacher posted to Twitter was illegal, but Cherry Creek School District spokesperson Tustin Amole told 7News that she'll be meeting with district officials Tuesday morning. "There are things that are troubling to us," Amole said to 7News. "However, what we need to do is to talk with her to review our district policy and then determine what our next step will be."
Many of her tweets were posted outside of school hours, however 9News reports that some of the now-removed tweets did occur during school hours and discussed her working as a teacher, but given that a crime was not committed should a teacher be punished at work for statements made on social media outside of school property and hours?
Although teacher's union the National Education Association encourages teachers activity on social media, it most certainly would not advocate for the kind of activity that this math teacher was engaging in. And on a teaching advice blog on job-finder website Monster.com, a post titled "10 Things a Teacher Should Never Do," offers this as advice to teachers using social media:
Here’s my rule and I’m sticking to it: if you wouldn’t post it on the board of your classroom, don’t post it on the internet. I’m talking about photos, status updates, and comments. Teachers losing their jobs over photos or “questionable” posting continues to make the news. Why? Some people are learning the lesson the hard way. Don’t be one of them.
The teacher also spoke with 7News and said that she understood that employers can become concerned about employees use of social media, but that she was unsure what drew their concern.
Cheery Creek School District officials say that the teacher will not be returning to class until their investigation of her behavior is completed. And although some students are supporting McKinney on Twitter and with t-shirts, it's ultimately up to the district to decide what to do, if anything.