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The dismissal of a teacher who posted TikTok content filmed in his classroom has been attributed to the school board’s “archaic” social media policy by the teacher himself. He believes that the strict policy was the reason behind his termination.
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Stephen Taylor is not only a comedian and a TikToker but also an educator who taught history and product design at Olathe School District’s Mill Creek Campus alternative school since August of 2020.
According to Taylor, he had been strategizing his departure from his teaching job by May 2024 so that he could focus on his passion for comedy. To support this transition, he was diligently working on building his TikTok following. However, his efforts were cut short when he was unexpectedly terminated from his job in September. Apparently, some of his TikTok videos had caught the attention of the school administration, leading to his dismissal.
In August, Taylor shared a TikTok video that he recorded in his classroom. He admitted to sharing incorrect information with his students when they annoyed him and even confessed to occasionally “crop dusting,” or farting, on them. In another video, which received 1 million views within a couple of days, he talked about students using coded language to discuss drugs. Taylor revealed that both videos became viral on the app shortly after he posted them.
According to Taylor, his videos garnered the interest of his principal, who advised him against filming on school premises. However, Taylor argued that such a restriction was not explicitly mentioned in the school’s social media policy for staff and hence, he did not see a reason to comply with it. Subsequently, he received a communication from the school district’s human resources department, requesting him to remove the content that was filmed on the school property. Despite their request, Taylor maintained his stance and refused to delete the videos.
According to Taylor, he was subsequently put on administrative leave.
After deleting all three of his videos, Stephen was informed during a scheduled meeting with HR on September 1st that he would be let go from his job.
According to an Insider report, a spokesperson for Olathe Public Schools declined to comment on this particular story citing privacy laws.
Insider has obtained a summary letter that was given to Taylor by an HR representative. The letter stated that Taylor breached the board’s social media policy. According to the school district’s “suggested guidelines,” online communication should adhere to the same professional standards expected in school or among the school community.
In the letter, it was mentioned that Taylor’s actions went against board policies and also violated the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which safeguards student records.
According to the letter, Taylor has breached several board policies, including one that pertains to ethics.
The letter sent to the teacher expressed grave concerns about the content of their videos, which appeared to showcase mistreatment and belittlement of their students. The author of the letter pointed out that these actions, combined with the fact that the videos were filmed in a Mill Creek classroom and displayed identifiable school and student records, were not acceptable and went against the core principles and expectations set for all staff. The author concluded by emphasizing that such conduct will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Taylor blames ‘archaic’ social media policies for his firing
During an Olathe Public Schools Board meeting on September 7, Taylor spoke out against his termination, asserting that he was let go due to his refusal to comply with the request to remove his videos. He expressed his belief that the decision to fire him had nothing to do with his performance, as he received excellent evaluations from the administration and had built strong relationships with his students. “This board is set to vote at the end of this to fire a teacher, at the end of this meeting, who has incredible evaluations from administration, great relationships with the students, and who cared deeply about their success,” he stated. Taylor firmly believes that his dismissal was solely due to his presence on TikTok.
In an interview with Insider, Taylor emphasized the significance of holding his position given his profession as a comedian. “Since social media is a crucial aspect of my job, I understood that if they disapproved of my fart video, they would most likely despise my stand-up comedy or any other content I shared. I knew it was going to be troublesome,” he explained.
According to Taylor, he did not breach any of the board’s policies. He is of the opinion that his termination was a consequence of not adhering to the requests made to remove his videos immediately.
During an interview with Insider, he expressed his belief that the social media policy for staff is outdated and needs to be revised. He further added that social media policies should enable teachers to showcase their true personalities online without any restriction.
According to him, the social media policy is quite ambiguous and can’t be easily violated. The clause seems to be a broad statement that gives the authorities the power to decide who is guilty based on their own personal interests, which is often biased.
After Taylor reposted two videos on TikTok, the HR department requested him to delete them. Taylor complied by removing the background on one video and ensuring that student names are not visible in the background of the other. These videos can be accessed through the links provided above.
Taylor is now part of a growing list of educators who lost their jobs due to social media posts that were deemed inappropriate by their employers. In a similar incident that happened earlier this year, a teacher from Austin, Texas, spoke to CBS Austin and claimed that her termination was related to a TikTok video where she discussed a meeting with a school administrator. She believed that her dismissal was enabled by a vague social media policy that she did not think she violated.
In an interview with Insider, Taylor stated that she stands by her actions and would not change a thing if she found herself in a similar situation again. She acknowledged that perhaps the only mistake she made was asking “why,” but even then, she believes it was a reasonable question to ask. Overall, Taylor remains confident in her decisions and feels that she did what was right in the given circumstances.