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Students Suspended, Expelled Over Facebook Posts 669

Posted by samzenpus
from the reading-writing-and-rhetoric dept.
An anonymous reader writes "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. 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."
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Students Suspended, Expelled Over Facebook Posts

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  • Good. Deserved. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip (656104) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:15AM (#35396250)
    Called someone a "pedophile" in this age of crazy parents, vigilantism, and indefinite search engine indexing they deserve at least to be expelled. Such accusations could very easily result in that teacher losing their job or worse having some moron fire bombing their home. It is exactly this kind of thing which is driving male teachers out of education in droves.

    Also, this story has nothing to do with Facebook and really doesn't belong on /.
    • Wait... pedophile + rapist = suspension, while bipolar = expulsion? Where is the logic in that one?

  • makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:15AM (#35396252)

    'Falsifying, misrepresenting, omitting, or erroneously reporting' allegations of inappropriate behavior by a school employee toward a student."

    This is a SERIOUS offense. For a student doing this to a teacher, it's no wonder he's expelled. If an adult falsifies or erroneously reports serious allegations like that, it's a felony! I'd say the kids should go to juvenile detention if they lied and said a teacher did serious stuff to kids.

  • They deserved it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rainmouse (1784278) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:18AM (#35396270)
    Posting on the internet that someone is a paedophile can have some very serious repercussions even at the wild accusation level. Why is there shock horror at the decision to refuse to allow a pupil that falsely the staff paedophiles to attend?
    • by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:53AM (#35396520)

      Posting on the internet that someone is a paedophile can have some very serious repercussions even at the wild accusation level. Why is there shock horror at the decision to refuse to allow a pupil that falsely the staff paedophiles to attend?

      How is it that we as a society have become to treat anything posted online as the gospel? It kills me that people stand there and laugh at the "nonsense" that is on the front page of the National Enquirer or The Sun these days, and then go home and believe everything they ever read on Facebook because well, a "friend" said it.

      Bottom line is people need to stop being so fucking ignorant of what is posted online, and perhaps at least TRY and assume some wild accusation is false before perpetuating the lie like wildfire. And I'm not talking about 13-year old kids here with their gossip, I'm talking about adults doing the same damn thing.

      I mean hell, innocent until proven guilty is only the cornerstone of our legal system...

      • Re:They deserved it (Score:4, Interesting)

        by espiesp (1251084) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @10:34AM (#35396760)

        You are missing a big point here. Saying somebody is a pedophile or rapist in ANY public forum whether it be the internet or a posting on the bulletin board at the local grocery store, is a VERY serious accusation that can cause lasting repercussions for the person. If that person happens to be a teacher it makes it greatly more amplified. The internet hasn't changed that, just made it easier to spread the word.

        Something else the internet does is remove a lot of plausible deniability. If you scribble it on a bathroom stall wall, it's much less likely to come back to bite you - and is also less likely to be taken seriously because well, it's anonymous. If you post it on your password protected facebook wall? Prepare for the pain train.

        While I'm generally on the side of freedom of speech and lack of censorship on the internet, there are still some lines that can be crossed. This is one of them. And these kids need a lesson in what not to say to blow off steam about a teacher or your school.

      • by Xyrus (755017)

        A child accusing someone of being a pedophile WILL NOT be treated lightly. Nor will it be ignored. There will be an investigation, even if the allegations are wildly false. The teacher's reputation will be damaged, and the school will most likely have to fire the teacher to appease the torch-and-pitchfork crowd.

        It's not a matter of legal justice. It's a matter of popular perception. In cases of children accusing teachers of being pedophiles (especially if the teacher is male), it doesn't matter whether the

      • Wow!

        You see an article about two girls falsely accusing the teacher of being a pedophile, and you say: "it should be obvious the girls were lying".

        The father of one of the girls sees the posts. Do you think he says: "It is obvious my daughter is lying"? And at least he knows her, and can ask her first about if it is real.

        The father of other girl at the same school sees the posts. Do you think he says: "It is obvious that girl is lying"?

        A police officer of the town sees the posts. Do you think he says: "It

      • by westlake (615356)

        How is it that we as a society have become to treat anything posted online as the gospel?

        I think it was Francis Bacon who made a case for the prosecution of witches.

        Not because he believed in their magic.

        But because they were driven by malice. Hell-bent on causing mischief. Playing on people's fears. Disturbing the peace.

  • From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gaspyy (514539) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:20AM (#35396298)

    Alejandra Sosa 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.”

    The case will be very important in deciding what falls under free speech and what the school can discipline students for

    So irresponsible name-calling because of a low grade or something is now expressing oneself and an example of free speech? Nice.

  • I did RTFA, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:31AM (#35396376) Homepage Journal

    ...remember that there is no violation her if what the kid says is true.

    I know, unlikely in this case, but it's something to think about. Seems like a way that "policy" could be used to cover something up since kids are usually assumed wrong at school until they are proven right (at which point the administrator starts to ignore them).

    At any rate, in the U.S. we've given school admins the right to pretty much create law by creating a "policy." I am not comfortable with that. It can and has been used as CYA too many times.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:37AM (#35396420)

    "...We’ll definitely be hearing more about this one as Facebook and other social networks continue to grow in popularity."

    Grow in popularity? Uh, no, I doubt it. This is yet another nail in the liability coffin that is Facebook.

    Not long ago I read how Facebook is being used to decide who should be selected to sit on a jury, with potential jurors being "coherced" into befriending the court in exchange for free wi-fi service in the courtroom, allowing the court to "see all".

    Also not long ago, I read how Facebook is responsible for quite an alarming number of cases of infidelity, leading to divorce, with divorce lawyers practically drooling over getting their hands in their opponents juicy Facebook tidbits.

    Schools. Potential employers. Current employers. What's next, will Military background investigations be done from an office chair instead of getting out in the field and actually interviewing someone, relying on social network "profiling" instead?

    As more and more people realize that social networking is a liability in their lives, they'll realize it's not worth it.

    Then again, with the air of ignorance around the law these days, maybe people won't give a shit until they have to hire a lawyer to defend what they've posted. Free speech...isn't free.

    • by Reemi (142518)

      I really hope you are right.

      The other scenario is even more scarry. In order to be hired for that new job, you are required to have at least 100 friends and a wall full of messages.

      Sounds strange? It already happend with the credit rating. You are forced to have debt in order to get a positive rating.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:41AM (#35396458)
    In the original posting? I mean I was all ready to type up how terrible this was and a school over steping their bounds but then I actually read the article. There's a world of difference between saying things like I hate my teacher or he/she is a moron and he/she is a pedophile.
  • by gratuitous_arp (1650741) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:48AM (#35396496)

    This was a response to the article on zdnet, written by "stevey_d":

    Lawyers make every argument adversarial. This is unethical and divides people whereas they should learn to live better with each other.

    Children often talk in terms like this about teachers, it's normal. What isn't normal is for the teacher to overhear it (or, if they do, they have the nous to develop bad hearing). This is the same for management in an organization. The only thing here is that the kids didn't figure any adults would intrude on their personal conversation.

    The school and the teachers have been ill advised here, someone could have quitely taken the kids to one side, explained the public nature of the chat, and helped them make it hidden or deleted. (enforce privacy).

    This whole case is ridiculous. Kids are kids, they don't always know how to behave, they make mistakes. The adults in the situation were clearly not mature enough in their response. Adversarial relationship no, should very rarely have anything to do with school/kids.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by qengho (54305)

      Children often talk in terms like this about teachers, it's normal.

      Except this isn't analogous to talking about a teacher during recess, it's more like posting flyers on telephone poles near the school.

    • by FlatEric521 (1164027) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @11:06AM (#35396964)

      This whole case is ridiculous. Kids are kids, they don't always know how to behave, they make mistakes.

      Punishment is an accepted step in teaching children how to behave, last I checked. If the children didn't know right from wrong, that would be one thing. But they were all 12-13 years of age, which should mean they already know that lying about their teacher being a pedo/rapist is wrong. Once you have gotten past the point of knowing right from wrong, we move to the step of teaching the consequences of doing the wrong thing. That is the punishment step. The kids did wrong, they know it, and they were caught. Now they get to face up to the consequences. Hopefully this will teach them further how to behave in the future, since simply knowing right from wrong wasn't enough in this case.

    • by drosboro (1046516) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @12:04PM (#35397436)

      Really? "Kids are kids" is the reason why it's okay for one to accuse a teacher of being a pedophile? Really?

      I overhear (and see) a lot of student conversations. "Mr. So-and-so is a loser" isn't that uncommon. "I hate Mrs. X" happens fairly regularly. But "Mr. Y is a pedophile" is and should be in a whole different category (e.g. a criminal one).

  • by perlith (1133671) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:49AM (#35396502)
    Previously if you were caught writing such a message on the walls , you would have to erase it and then were suspended for 10 days for the action. Now if you do it on Facebook, apparently you get expelled, rather than having the opportunity to redact such statements and make a public apology / amends for it.

    People should be allowed to be young, make mistakes, face consequences of their actions and learn from them. It's called growing up. This is not the way to go about it at all.
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @10:14AM (#35396636)

      Previously if you were caught writing such a message on the walls , you would have to erase it and then were suspended for 10 days for the action

      You can't possibly be so obtuse as to not recognize the difference between something on a wall that a small number of people might see, and which can be removed, vs. an online posting that can take on a life of its own and become essentially permanent in a venue accessed by billions of people.

  • Facts v. Opinions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:54AM (#35396530)

    Had the kids posted opinions - IE: "My teacher sucks" - No biggie, and totally protected.
    Instead, they posted factual allegations.
    "My teacher is a pedo/rapist" is Libel, which is not protected, and clearly actionable.
    It also has consequences. Erroneous accusations like that ruin careers, and send people to jail. A few hundred years ago it was "Witch, Witch!" Today it's "Pedo, Pedo!"
    If you want to see scary, look at the OP comments - "That teacher should be investigated, the cops should be all over his house!" is the meme there.
    Finally, for those saying "not the school's place to get involved." Actually, it is - the school has standing to take unilateral action here in order to protect itself and its employee. Period.These posts were retaliation for official acts. Left unaddressed at the institutional level, it becomes an effective method of blackmail. Yeah, the teacher can sue too, but then you've got the boatload of issues that come with litigation that I for one would never want to entertain. For a deterrent to be effective, it has to be Cost Effective. Cheap harms are best countered by cheap deterrents, otherwise students have an incentive to hedge, and kids are intuitively good at gaming incentive structures. Besides, I can just hear the whining now -

    "Teacher sues for being called a pedo on the internet."
    Comments:
    Litigious bastard, he's probably a pedo.
    Why's everybody suing all the time.
    etc, etc

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zelucifer (740431)

      One of the most important parts of libel, and one that you overlooked, is that libelous statements have to be believable. Would anyone in there right mind believe that this teacher is really a pedophile, based on a bunch of students calling him a "pedophile", "bipolar" and other statements in that vein?

      • by tivoKlr (659818)

        Well, he does work with kids, which gives him an ample supply of victims, so yes, I'd say the possibility of the pedo claim being believable and plausible to be true. The kids should be run up the flagpole. I'd freakin' go nuclear on my kids if they pulled this kind of behavior.

        • by Duradin (1261418)

          You could stop at "he" for the possibility of the pedo claim being believable and plausible to be true.

  • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062@gmail.cPLANCKom minus physicist> on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:55AM (#35396538)

    While I do agree that what these students said was wrong, I don’t believe they should be punished for what they did. They need to be disciplined, sure, but the school should not have a right to get involved. This is a very fine line we’re talking about.

    So somehow discipline is not punishment? Tell that to my Mom when I did something stupid like talking back to her. Soap on the tongue sure felt like punishment to me.

    Having read TFA, the issue I find most jarring is that the parents of these children are considering suing the school for their actions. Really? Now that's a grand way to teach children right and wrong. "Gee Johny, you called your teacher a pedophile and got suspended because it was a false claim? Lets sue the bastard instead.". I don't see the argument as being over whether the school had the right or not, the core issue is that kids now feel free enough to use words, to "ink" words like pedophile, rapist, bi-polar as weapons. "Ha, you can't touch me because I am protected". Instead of taking the school to task for taking action to protect their employees, how about we take to task the parents that create children with little to know awareness of basic respect to adults. I may not have liked my English teacher in high school, I certainly may have said to friends, I cannot stand that lady, but had I called her a rapist, my parents would have applauded the school and added further "discipline" to make their "punishment" seem kind.

    • by meatspray (59961) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @10:37AM (#35396776) Homepage

      Sure, they're going to sue. It's one of our core values you know? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the Ineffable right to drag anyone you disagree with though court, beat them up with your abundant supply of money and time until you get your way or they give you a fat check to make you go away.

      It's the schools job to keep the place safe and clean and educational. That means they need to kick out asshats and verified wolf criers, and they had damn well do their job or they'll end up with a wholly different six-pack of lawsuits when then fail to kick a real pedo teacher to the curb.

      My favorite part is where they're saying the principal violated their privacy by making them log in to facebook at the school. You posted a severely damning lie about an agent of the school on a pseudo-public social website and now you're worried about your privacy?

      Suspended for 10 days is a puny slap on the wrist. Yes Honor Roll students screw up too, and just because they generally do the write thing doesn't mean they shouldn't be punished, people need to wake up, children need appropriate and sane levels of discipline or they turn in to jack-asses later in life.

    • What should have happened is that the teachers or their union should have sued the parents for defamation.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Parents and students are a single unit. A student behaves, mostly, as the parent does, even if the parent claims otherwise. If a student calls a teachers a pedophile, I would guess the parent regularly calls their boss a terrorist and the medical staff that takes care of the kids murders. There is no point adking about the parents, as the behavior of the child most likley illustrates the behavior.

      In any case the response of the parent has done more damage to the child than the suspension. By telling t

  • witch hunt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cthlptlk (210435) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @10:16AM (#35396646)

    Watch the documentary Witch Hunt (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1196112/ , it is on netflix streaming) to see how incredibly destructive these kinds of claims about pedophilia can be, even if the facts in the accusation are completely absurd. (In another case not covered in the movie, very young students claimed that teachers used a system of underground tunnels to get to a secret dungeon, and this was accepted as fact.) Communities can very easily enter into a kind of mass hysteria and put innocent people in prison. Given the history of things that have happened to teachers in this country, the school policy is not unreasonable.

  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @10:17AM (#35396658)
    A while ago these students would get the switch, or a spanking, or whatnot, and everyone would have agreed that it was an appropriate punishment. Now we have everyone getting their lawyer. I know on the face of it one could argue that we're teaching them to use the legal system instead of violence... sounds reasonable, but it just seems wrong to me. It all seems so much more, well... juvenile.
    • It was likely declared to be a barbaric practice. I'd say that abusing someone else to get your way is far more 'childish' than the alternatives. If your argument is so weak that you're have to use violence to defend it, then you have already lost.

  • by ph0rk (118461) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @11:18AM (#35397078)
    One of these students called their teacher a pedophile, the other called a teacher bipolar. If tossing around a statement like that isn't criminal when it isn't warranted, then I'm not sure what libel and slander are.

    They deserve the full might of the disciplinary hammer in this case.
    • by russotto (537200)

      One of these students called their teacher a pedophile, the other called a teacher bipolar. If tossing around a statement like that isn't criminal when it isn't warranted, then I'm not sure what libel and slander are.

      Torts, in most states, including Georgia. Which means that the statement isn't criminal.

  • by igb (28052) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:51PM (#35398328)
    Read this: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2683272/posts [freerepublic.com]

    The parents quite clearly can't see any problem with their children's behaviour, so presumably this is another case of bad parents making bad children. Which is a shame, but there's no reason why the school should have to put up with it. And Alesjandra is quite the moron, isn't she: she thinks that if she goes to another school she might start to make bad decisions. Has she looked in a mirror recently and considered how her recent decisions have gone?

    And by the way, unlike I suspect a lot of slashdotters, I've got 12 year old children. If mine behaved like this, a lot of things would happen. But lawyering up and demanding my child's first amendment rights to call named people rapists wouldn't be one of them (because, aside from anything else, it isn't protected speech, and might indeed constitute fighting words). Oh, and isn't the minimum age for Facebook 13 anyway?

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