Why We Love GMOs and Vaccines was unpublished for three days
Certain individuals that have essentially been cyber stalking me for several years now have sunk to a new low.
In the past they have worked to try and get me fired. I run a Facebook page called We Love GMOs and Vaccines and am fairly active on Twitter. They disagree with my positive outlook on biotechnology and my criticism of those who work against it. But instead of engaging me in a discussion on our differences (or even just making memes about me in return), they have taken to dragging my personal and professional lives into their disagreements with me.
Fortunately their attempts to report me to different administrators proved fruitless. Their emails and tweets to my school and co-workers went largely ignored. As a government employee I cannot be fired for speaking on matters of public interest.
And while my tactics may be a bit extreme for some, mocking someone’s public anti-science rant is certainly speaking on matters of public interest.
Once they realized their attempts to silence me were not working, I thought it was over. I even toned the page down a little bit, just to avoid giving them more ammo. Learning from my mistakes I actually started some civil dialog with several individuals on the other side of the fence. Especially the ones who happen to be socially liberal like I am.
This past November I learned that someone decided to try something different.
A Freedom of Information Act request was filed on me, looking for documentation relating to donations to my classroom was receiving through accounts I set up at Adopt A Classroom and Donor’s Choose. Science communication is a fun hobby, and I thought my fans would enjoy supporting my students.
This is of course a very legitimate request. I promote science that just happens to be related to products sold by corporations. It isn’t necessarily always used that way, but there is definitely more than a little bit of a crossover there. I have stated before that this is a very reasonable question to ask. My own requests on public employees have certainly revealed such startling information.
As expected, nothing came out of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if a biotech employee somewhere tossed $20 at my classroom when I shared the links to the Facebook page, but I honestly don’t know and haven’t been in contact with anyone about it.
So I did what I do best, I laughed about it. Because I really did find it funny. I posted a couple of sarcastic apologies for daring to raise money for my classroom rather than selling tee-shirts.
But when I found myself looking at the second of three requests on me since this began in November, I realized that they aren’t actually looking for collusion with industry. Once again they are just trying to get me fired.
Without any evidence, they are accusing me of theft. This request is insinuating to my administration that I am stealing from my students. This type of accusation can utterly ruin someone for the rest of their life.
It isn’t enough just to call me a Monsanto shill. They are encouraging my school system to place me under investigation. To take me out of the classroom only to have a substitute placed while such an investigation would be taking place. They want to leave my students with a lessened education experience just for their petty vendetta against me.
Do these people really think some Chromebooks and copy paper are worth risking my job over? They probably don’t care, it’s enough for them to punish me for daring to challenge their anti-science ideology.
So far I’m fine. I happen to have an amazing relationship with my administration. I do my job, and I am good at it. My evaluations are always excellent and I am consistently praised for my relationship with my students. My administration knows me, and knows what kind of professional I am.
Unfortunately sometimes one has to back off, letting someone win a battle in order to protect more important things in life. My family comes first, followed closely by my students.
This latest threat has me truly concerned for the first time. It tells me they will stop at nothing to get at me. Will they start targeting my wife? Also a government employee, though she thinks GMOs should be labeled.
I don’t know if I can continue taking that risk. I don’t know if I want to continue looking over my shoulder. So I am going to take some time off. It could be back next week, next month, or never. At a minimum I need to start a dialog with my union and administration about how to handle these attacks in the future. They are stakeholders in this now too, and we all have a responsibility to protect our students.
For two reasons I am republishing the page quicker than I assumed.
- One individual that I used to have a lot of nastiness back and forth with on Twitter has actually come to my defense. To the doctor in question, thank you for putting the past behind us and taking the high road here.
2. One of the anonymous accounts she has referenced has made it clear that even with the page unpublished they have no plans to stop making accusations about me to my employer. So why take the page down at all? Several people have sent me messages stating that if I pull the page it will just encourage these people to do this again and again. That appears accurate.
I didn’t get paid to write this, but if you would like to support my classroom you can donate here: https://adoptaclassroom.force.com/donors/s/designation/a1mC0000002NxGLIA0/stepha-neidenbach