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Teachers out at prep school after nasty Slack messages about students are revealed

Technically Incorrect: Several teachers privately called the kids "idiots" and worse; then screenshots of their chats were circulated, say reports.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Teachers don't tell students everything they think.

If they did, how many teachers would still have a job?

At Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy in Rhode Island, the teachers have the luxury of Slack, a corporate internal-communications app that touts itself as a better, friendlier version of email.

As the Providence Journal reports, on Monday everyone associated with the school -- faculty, staff and students -- received a Google doc that included what it claimed were screenshots of some of the teachers' Slack chats.

Eighteen pages of chats were bared for all to see.

For example, this in reference to a student who has difficulty spelling: "[expletive] idiot."

These words were in reference to a 16-year-old student who, according to a chat in the document, spelled the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates' name "Tonahese quotes."

The student told the Providence Journal that such messages were enormously upsetting and detrimental to her confidence.

The school didn't respond to my request for comment. It did, however, issue an open letter that said its own investigation had substantiated the allegations and that three teachers were no longer employed by Blackstone. The Washington Post reported that they had resigned "in disgrace."

What goes on below the surface?

What goes on below the surface?

Gerald R. Brimacombe/Getty Images

"I want to be crystal clear, many of the comments written are deeply disturbing and offensive," the school's executive director, Jeremy Chiapetta, said in the letter.

One example of the chats revealed by the Providence Journal was the following exchange.

One teacher says, "Man I wish we could hit them."

Another replies: "Move to Arizona. Though really no school districts allow, by state law you are allowed to. Start your own charter and commence with the flogging."

Chiapetta said in his note, "Parents put their trust in teachers and the school, and that trust has been violated."

Less focus seems to have been placed on the teachers' privacy.

But at what point does (or should) privacy become irrelevant?

The issue of teachers commenting on their students by technological means isn't a new one. In 2011, a first-grade teacher in New Jersey was suspended after allegedly calling her students "future criminals" on Facebook.

In the Rhode Island case, did the teachers have a reasonable expectation that their chats were private?

Would such chats be normal chatter between teachers over a drink after work?

Regardless, might the teachers have stopped to think that they were using school-sponsored software and should be very careful?