Skip to comments.No expulsion for kids' Facebook posts about teacher
Posted on 03/10/2011 3:03:44 PM PST by madprof98
The school system that threatened to expel three children over their derogatory Facebook posts about a teacher has backed down.
The students, who called a teacher at Chapel Hill Middle School in Douglas County a "pedophile" and a "rapist" in online posts last month, will return to school Tuesday after a two-week suspension, said William Lambert, Jr., one of the parents.
The kids had faced re-assignment to a school for troubled youths for at least the rest of the semester. But earlier this week the Douglas school system canceled the tribunal hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday morning.
Lambert and the parents of the other two children contend that school principal Jolene Morris violated the students' privacy. They said Morris forced one of the children, 13-year-old Alejandra Sosa, to log onto her Facebook account at school so the principal could read what the girl and her friends had written.
"The bottom line is the principal was wrong and somebody told her that," said Lambert. He said Morris called him Monday to tell him the tribunal had been canceled, but offered no explanation.
A Douglas County schools spokeswoman confirmed last week that a hearing involving three unidentified children and Facebook posts was to occur Thursday. But when asked Thursday about the cancellation of that hearing, the spokeswoman, Karen Stroud, said she could no longer talk about the case because of the media coverage. The names of the children had been published and Stroud said she was bound by federal privacy laws regarding disciplinary actions.
"I cannot give you information because in this particular case the students' identification has been made public," Stroud said.
In an interview last week, Stroud said the three students were accused of a "level one" offense, the worst possible under school system code, which prohibits "falsifying, misrepresenting, omitting, or erroneously reporting" allegations of inappropriate behavior by a school employee toward a student.
Alejandra, in an interview with her mother, Maria Sosa, said last week that Morris ordered her to log onto her Facebook account on a library computer. She said the principal then read that Alejandra had called one of her teachers a "pedophile." The principal then read posts by other children, according to Alejandra. That's where she saw that 12-year-old William Lambert III had called the same teacher a rapist, according to the boy's father.
Stephanie Lamb, the mother of Taylor Tindle, 12, also said that is where the principal read that Taylor had called the teacher a pedophile.
All three parents said their children had behaved badly, but they also said the punishment was too severe and that their kids were studious, earning As and Bs, and otherwise well-behaved. Lamb said expulsion to the county's "alternative" school would expose her daughter to gangs and drugs.
The three parents banded together and hired a lawyer.
Lambert said the school system's decision to relent on the threatened expulsion has not altered his desire to go to court. "We're considering at least going to federal, saying our rights were violated," he said.
So many kids are logging onto Facebook and writing questionable things about teachers that school system sanctions involving the Internet site have become a hot topic in legal circles.
"The cases have been cropping up for quite some time," said David L. Hudson, Jr., a scholar at the First Amendment Center, a free speech advocacy group at Vanderbilt University.
Hudson said there is no federal law or court ruling that sets a clear line regarding school jurisdiction over what students write online. There have been plenty of lawsuits, and some courts have sided with students saying they do not shed their constitutional speech rights at school while others have ruled that schools can prohibit vulgar speech, even when it occurs off campus.
A couple current federal lawsuits may make it to the Supreme Court, where a decision might help set clearer standards, Hudson said. "We really need some guidance in this area."
Lambert, the parent of the boy who called a Chapel Hill teacher a rapist on Facebook, said clear rules are needed. He said he had a talk with his son about the damage one can inflict with words, then took his cell phone and video games as punishment. He also asked his daughter to disable her little brother's Facebook account.
But Lambert said there is no way "to police it 100 percent" because of the anonymity of the Internet and the ubiquity of computers outside the home -- and away from parents' view.
"If they think their child doesn't have Facebook they have a rude awakening because you can put a Facebook account under any name," Lambert said. "This is not over. Facebook is growing."
Wow, calling people names like that doesn’t at least constitute harassment??
this is disgusting...no wonder we have such messed up kids and adults!
Wow, I don’t even want to think what my parents would have done to me....
The parents have hired a lawyer? Good.
Cause if I was the teacher, I’d sue their (bleeps) off.
Don’t you see kids like that in your classes, Prof98?
That's just a class meant to demonstrate to students what is expected of them by the TSA.
The the feel-up/pat-down nude photo session follow? If not, the class was incomplete.
With enough pressure, and adult can frighten most children into recanting. Corroborating evidence can not be.
Often pedophiles can avoid a trial even when discovered because of the trauma a court case brings to the victim.
When this case initially came out, my assumption was that the allegations were spurious. Now, I think they may have been true but difficult to prove. Why else not even a mild punishment like expulsion?
The kids also referred to him as a pedophile. Nothing charged about that. /s
I don’t think children should be granted full Constitutional rights. Yep, I said it. Adults need to supervise them, and make sure they are engaging in wholesome activity.
That teacher needs to get far, far away from that school ASAP before his life and reputation is destroyed.
It seems to me the kids committed the tort of libel. If the teacher wants to sue them that would be in order. And that’s it. The school as an arm of the state has no business policing students out of school behavior.
Blessedly not. I'm semi-retired now, but when I was younger, I taught working adults, most of them people of modest means. Occasionally somebody threatened violence, but nobody ever did that "Talk to my lawyer" number.
This is why kids shouldn’t have facebook accounts. Kids are young and stupid, and they say stupid things about their teachers and other adults. The difference is, back in the day, they didn’t have a public forum to have their stupid comments lingering in cyberspace instead of passing words between peers.
Not denying the kids shouldn’t have been slapped hard for what they did, but sending them to a school for troubled kids isn’t the best option if they’re basically good kids who did a stupid thing.
Places were troubled kids go are not places to be if you aren’t a troubled kid...
If you're going through a divorce it can constitute disorderly conduct and menacing, depending on mood of the prosecutor's office.
Interesting. Do you think the Principal learned anything?
Probably something like "Why bother?" Most public school administrators have learned that lesson very well.
I agree with you. First legal error was libel on the kids part. Second error however was the Principls actions on forcing the child to log onto and reveal private communication.
But the reason that the principal had to ask the child to log on to the kid's Facebook account is because the material posted on that account is not available to the public. It is only available to the people listed as friends of the poster. So the "comments" are really no more public than the words on a note passed between peers. There is no "public forum" in this case, just a private group of students making comments to each other.
Schools should not have access to private communications between students or groups of students that happen outside of the school, any more than the government should be able to read everybody's emails and private postings.
The only apparent reason the student's comments became public is because the school made them public, and the cause of whatever damage to the teacher's reputation has occurred happened because of what the school did.
The kids at school were no doubt having a good old time talking about this when the principal decided she needed to get the facts. Don’t worry: if she doesn’t just quit and go into some less stressful field, she’ll just let this stuff go unchecked in the future. Thanks to daddy and his high-priced lawyer, the spoiled brats won big-time. And the liberals and their libertarian allies can join hands to cheer them on.
Would it be OK from your point of view if a couple of government employees arrived at your house and looked through all of your possessions to see if you had written anything critical of them, or perhaps expressed some opinion about someone that was less than flattering?
Libertarian nonsense. We’re talking about kids in school. CHILDREN. If you have any, God help their teachers.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I presume you don't care if children learn what that sentence means, after all it was written by some "Libertarians" a long time ago.
The Lamberts are old Douglas county money...
It already has been (see post #8)...
The school administration most likely got wind of the statements about the teacher voluntarily through other students who were facebook friends of the posters. The administration may have (could have) viewed the comments through those accounts before confronting the student who wrote the comments.
If the administration felt the comments were serious enough, the next step should have been to escalate the matter to the parents and/or police if the offended teacher felt damages to his/her reputation warranted it.
It's hard for me to believe that the police weren't involved in some way before the decision to expel. If they weren't, and the administration made the decision to expel based on their own forced search, I agree with your thoughts on this case.
I have worked in tech in schools. The school was often asked by incensed parents to deal with cyberbullying that occured on home computers. We just did not have the right to investigate such behavior on home machines. Everything had to be referred to the police if the parents felt it was warranted.
If the postings were done on a school machine, however, it is a different matter. A lot depends on what the usage rules are for students, etc. There's a lot more gray than black and white in such cases regarding searches on school machines.
Even on a school machine I would have never logged on to a private account without the administration getting the parent's permission, however, and I wouldn't have done it without the parents and administrator sitting there with me. If I knew the parents were antagonistic, then the administration would have handled the process with me as a tech resource if/when requested by the higher ups.
All in all, it seems that some information is missing from the equation here. It doesn't seem to be a that a proper chain of command was followed ifthe events were as serious as I understand from the article.
It's hard for me to believe that a principal is dumb enough to force a student to log on to a private account, but it's certainly not out of the question.