In the past I have covered Facebook posts leading to people losing their jobs, but a new article places a whole new twist on this:
Two students have been suspended, and one student has been expelled, over negative Facebook postings they made about a teacher. The individuals are in seventh grade at Chapel Hill Middle School, meaning they are either 12 or 13 years old, according to My Fox Atlanta. The children are accused of violating a portion of the school code that is a “level one” offense, the worst possible: “Falsifying, misrepresenting, omitting, or erroneously reporting” allegations of inappropriate behavior by a school employee toward a student, according to AJC.
Alejandra Sosa, an honor roll student, said she regretted posting a Facebook status calling her teacher a pedophile. She has been suspended for 10 days. “I was just expressing myself on Facebook, because like I said I was mad that day because of what he [did],” Sosa said in a statement. “So, I mean I had no intentions of ruining his reputation.”
Sosa is currently drafting an apology to her teacher. At the same time though, she said her school principal, Jolene Morris, violated her privacy by ordering her to log into her Facebook account at a school library computer. Morris then reportedly read the offending post and ensuing responses from friends before ordering Sosa to delete the posts. As many as 15 children made two dozen posts about the teacher in the Facebook conversation, but their penalties were not as severe (for example, a one-day suspension from school).
William Lambert, also an honor roll student, had the same feelings as Sosa after he was reprimanded for calling the same teacher a rapist. He has also been suspended. “I shouldn’t have done it,” Lambert said in a statement. “Because I could have still been at school, like right now, if I never had commented on the post.”
Taylor Tindle was expelled for posting that the same teacher is bipolar. The student’s mother asked not to be identified but said she believed the school’s punishment did not fit the crime and pointed out that her child did not even get a chance to apologize before getting kicked out
What these students did is appalling and could even lead to a lot of legal heartache for the teacher, but it appears that the actions of the school may have also gone over the top.
First off is the principal forcing a student to login to their Facebook. Facebook is not a school activity, but rather a home activity. The principal should have called the parents in and then asked them about accessing the account. It is not the job of the principal to play parent.
Facebook also offers levels of privacy. Apparently the student utilized this feature, but the principal figured out a way around it by strong arming the student into login into her account. In a sense, Facebook could actually have a case against the principal here.
This could lead the principal into significant legal trouble. Law enforcement is required to have warrants to access this stuff, so how does a principal of the school think they have more power than the law? Hearing that the parents have hired an attorney, I got a feeling we will see this question answered in the courts.
Another big problem I have is with the punishments. I don’t know if the school should really be the decider of the punishment here. These actions apparently didn’t happen on school time or grounds, so this is a case where the parents should have been called in and left to discipline the teacher. If the teacher feels that the slanderous comments are damaging to his/her reputation, then we have a legal system in place to handle this. Sue the kids (and by extension the parents) over the postings, but the school should really have no authority here. It’s just another example of educators trying to become the parent figures also, and it is a growing problem in America’s education system.
And speaking of the punishments, it doesn’t appear that they were handed out fairly. Accusing someone of being a pedophile or rapist is far worse than accusing someone of being bipolar, yet the later lead to expulsion, while the former was just suspensions. Were the two, who made the far more evil allegations, only suspended because of being honor roll students? Maybe the principal figured he/she better keep them in school to keep the overall GPA of the school higher. That’s only speculation and I am very curious to hear the actual reasoning, but something doesn’t seem right here.
The article does say the parents have hired attorneys, so we will be hearing a lot more about this. In our day of social networking, it’s time we get some sound legal judgments stating what can and can’t be done by employees, students, employers and those in education. Where is the line drawn in privacy and the control your employer/school can have over your personal life? I’m sure I’m not the only one wanting an answer to that question.