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Missouri High School Principal Resigns After Posing As Student On Facebook 190

Posted by timothy
from the such-poor-use-of-pronouns dept.
longacre writes "Suzy Harriston wanted to be friends on Facebook. The profile said she was from Clayton [Missouri] and had more than 300 friends, many of them from Clayton High School. No one seemed to question who Harriston was. That is, until the night of April 5, when a 2011 grad and former Clayton quarterback posted a public accusation. '"Whoever is friends with Suzy Harriston on Facebook needs to drop them. It is the Clayton Principal," wrote Chase Haslett.' Suzy Harriston quickly disappeared from Facebook, and Louise Losos, the principal, subsequently took a leave of absence, and then resigned."
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Missouri High School Principal Resigns After Posing As Student On Facebook

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2012 @03:33PM (#39903383)

    I know for a fact that stuff like this happened in my old high school in Missouri, but we didn't ever 100% prove it. Whenever the principal would find something that someone had posted on Facebook during school and punish them during the same day, it was pretty obvious.

    • by PPH (736903)

      When I was a kid in high school, some of the faculty dated a few of the students and got the low down on the social scene this way.

      You kids have it easy. Now stay off of my lawn!

      • by rogueippacket (1977626) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:22PM (#39903737)
        Yeah, Facebook "creeping" seems unscrupulous, but it is much, much better than the alternatives. A nosy person is a nosy person - they'll get into your business if they want to, at least Facebook keeps them across a digital divide. Besides, it teaches the kids a valuable lesson - if you put it online, it's never private.
        • by PPH (736903) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @05:07PM (#39904087)

          Yeah, Facebook "creeping" seems unscrupulous, but it is much, much better than the alternatives.

          It's a boundary violation. Passing as a student creates inappropriate relationships between kids and people who are supposed to be authority figures and professionals.

          "The alternative" is what, exactly? Spying on kids without probable cause and something resembling judicial oversight is just teaching them to expect the same behavior from law enforcement or other authorities once they become adults and make it out into the real world. Its probably different for 10-year-olds. But kids have to have a continuum of responsibility and autonomy. High school is right next to adulthood and people need to behave as such.

          • Spying on kids without probable cause and something resembling judicial oversight is just teaching them to expect the same behavior from law enforcement or other authorities once they become adults and make it out into the real world.

            You say that like it's a bad thing.

            • by sjames (1099)

              It is if they don't also learn it is a corruption of everything this country is supposed to be about.

              But if they learn THAT, education ends because the students will be unable to respect the faculty (though truth be known, there are plenty they shouldn't respect).

          • by robbo (4388) <<ten.armis> <ta> <todhsals>> on Saturday May 05, 2012 @08:06PM (#39905057)

            The real alternative is to teach our children not to accept friend requests from strangers. I find it shocking that 300 people accepted her friend requests without so much as raising an eyebrow.

            • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @10:10PM (#39905577)

              I find it shocking that 300 people accepted her friend requests without so much as raising an eyebrow.

              Probably not so obvious as all that. I expect that after the first half dozen or so had accepted her friend requests, after that everyone knew she was a friend of [someone they already knew]...

              • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @10:41PM (#39905669) Journal

                Exactly... There are definitely times on Facebook where you get a friend request from someone you really don't know, but upon seeing who THEIR friends are (plus, perhaps, checking some of the misc. info they posted about themselves - such as where they attended school), you'd think, "I must actually know this person, and just don't realize it." ... or "My friends must have told them they should talk to me since they think we'd get along for some reason."

                Sure, it's a BAD idea to just randomly friend strangers -- but these situations are usually a little more complicated than that.

      • Did they get fired for that?

        • Crap, at my high school, as I later found out (it wasn't common knowledge at the time), three of the four P.E. teachers had married students, and that a fifth, who had moved to middle school but who had been part of the faculty at the time had also married a student.

          Nowadays, of course, these guys would be registered sex offenders, banned from a specific radius around the school or being the presence of someone under the age of 18, and so on. Back then it was just "Naughty man, now marry that girl!" Hell, I

          • by PPH (736903)

            Sounds like we went to the same high school. The school fight song was banjo music (figuratively).

            When I was in junior high, one kid got in a (seemingly) unprovoked fight with a teacher in the classroom (I witnessed it). Neither got suspended/fired. Later on, I heard the rumor that it was because they had the hots for the same girl.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Well given a teacher at a school in X area likely taught most adults in X area it hardly seems fair to forbid teachers from entering into relationships with adults that happen to have been taught by them at some point. Such limitations would severely limit the pool of available partners.
            Perhaps in my naivety I'm too quick to discard the possibility that they had really married people that were still students at the time and that this somehow wasn't common knowledge. My apologies if this is the case.

      • by russotto (537200)

        When I was a kid in high school, one of the faculty slept with one of his students behind the back of his terminally ill wife, got away with it, and eventually married her (ok, maybe he didn't quite get away with it).

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:29PM (#39903779) Homepage

      I know for a fact that stuff like this happened in my old high school in Missouri, but we didn't ever 100% prove it. Whenever the principal would find something that someone had posted on Facebook during school...

      This word 'old'...I don't think it means what you think it means.

    • If you can't prove it, you don't "know" it.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I'm not on Facebook so I don't understand. Why would anyone add a stranger as a friend, much less 300 students doing this?

      • by Andy_R (114137) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @03:29AM (#39906515) Homepage Journal

        1) You're a kid. You've spend most of your life trying to get a high score on computer games. Facebook is fun, interactive, and on a computer, so your instincts are telling you to do well at it and get a high score. It's hard *not* to look at the friends count as a 'score', measuring how good you are at Facebook.

        2) Ever been an unpopular kid in school? Social hierarchies mean a lot to kids, and Facebook makes 'being the unpopular kid' a measurable statistic. Add a few more people and you are measurably, provably, not the unpopular kid.

        Facebook's exponential growth certainly isn't due to good design, strong privacy or those oh, so enjoyable farmville requests, it's down the the intense pressure on all students to have an above average number of friends.

        • Yeah.... but no.

          Facebook is popular because (this might shock you) people like it.

          As to high "friend scores" most of the people who use facebook aren't gamers. Nor does it have anything to do with social hierarchy. It's simple: one more friend is one more person whose gossip you have access to. The cost? One more person as an audience to your thoughts. You gain access to gossip in exchange for attention. You only benefit without any cost except for the time to press "OK". There are of course subtl

  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Saturday May 05, 2012 @03:34PM (#39903391) Homepage

    She put the "Pal" i n principal!

    • She watched too much Community. When oh when will the networks realize the terrible impact their shows have on impressionable old minds? .... Dean ya later!
  • News for nerds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2012 @03:34PM (#39903397)

    Slow news day eh timothy?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can't prove it, but students in my HS seemed to be punished almost *immediately* from certain FB postings, even postings made during school hours from cell phones, etc.

    Either they had someone monitoring FB full time (doubtful), or there was a "trap" account disguised as a student that people friended by default believing the account was associated with a student at the school.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Don't you have a couple of fake students' FB accounts? A couple of jocks, a couple of stoners (I know, redundant), etc. They can advertise the occasional kegger at the address of an empty lot and see how fast the cops show up.

  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:02PM (#39903589)
    I would say this one is still an okay story to put on Slashdot compared to some of the other constantly anti-Apple stories ( really, have we all come to a consensus Apple is evil and others are not? and I am not an Apple fan either ) and the anti-TSA stuff (how many stories do we need of that? We all are in agreement about that one for sure). Why is this particular story interesting? IMHO , how bad is faking your identity online ? I mean did she solicit students for sex ? or was it just to know the current vibe among? Did she just wanna be a cool principal by knowing what goes on among her students ? I briefly read the above article about the whole PE teacher thing. I dont know. Has no one used a fake name in real life ever? Does Facebook have a policy that you cannot lie about your age to underage kids ? I think it raises some interesting questions about online identities. I mean what if she was friends with some kid in the school and she got that kid to give her the username/password of their fb account (hypothetically speaking) and just looked at all her friends profiles and walls etc. Wouldn't that be similar to this?
    • My guess is that she heard about the facebook page opposing the action against the coach, and created a fake account to read it. Then curiosity got the better of her and she started friending the students to see what they were up to.

      Maybe she didn't realise it was wrong. Maybe she did, but the curiosity and feeling of anonymity got the better of her.

      • by Threni (635302)

        She pretended to be a student? Doesn't sound that wrong to me if that's all she did.

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          From the article;

          If administrators were monitoring students' Facebook activity without being truthful about their identity, that is a breach of trust, Brown said in an interview.

          She pretended to be a student so that she could monitor student activity on Facebook. In my mind it is also fraud in that she misrepresented her identity to gain information that she would not normally have access to.

          Her actions after she was found out is proof of a guilty conscience. Had she come out and admitted to faking an account and defended why she did it I may have believed that she had been mistaken in her actions. Instead, she ran, hid and quit her job; no apology, no explanation.

          • by v1 (525388)

            Worse than that, she probably violated facebook's ToS. Somebody call the cops!

        • by causality (777677) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @06:53PM (#39904773)

          She pretended to be a student? Doesn't sound that wrong to me if that's all she did.

          If she had time for this crap then her salary was useless overhead anyway.

          Ever wonder why schools always need more and more money? Adjusted for inflation, expenditures for students and salaries for teachers haven't changed much at all relative to the far higher amount we pay for public schooling compared to 20-30 years ago. What has changed? The number of administrative staff has drastically increased.

          And this is how they use their time?

          Also, it bothers me the way you think it's acceptable for an authority figure to deceive impressionable young people in order to learn about things that happen outside of school that those young people would not have voluntarily shared with said authority figure. If you're a fan of authoritarianism and the use of surveillance with no justification, please explain why. Somehow I doubt you would personally like for your life to be subject to such people, but maybe I have that all wrong.

          It's possible they'll never admit it, but many young people would love to see an authority figure who is honest, noble, and genuinely respectable. For most of them it would be the first time they have ever witnessed such a thing.

          • by swalve (1980968)
            I agree with some of this stuff, but what I find more wrong about the whole thing is that the principal *wanted* to know the facebook gossip. Bad priorities. A teacher, and especially an administrator, should really not be concerned with that stuff.
          • by Elldallan (901501)
            The blame for events such as this lies largely with the fact that society keeps pushing teachers to be more than suppliers and distributors of knowledge that they are supposed to be.

            Society as a whole has started expecting teachers to be psychologists, parents, moral guardians, mediators, police and what not.
            As long as we keep expecting teachers to do more than teach students in math, chemistry and history etc. then to be able to fulfill all these additional obligations they will need additional tools a
        • by rohan972 (880586) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:05PM (#39904825)
          Not that wrong? As an agent of the government at best it's a 4th amendment violation, it she was aiming to take action against people who criticized her that should be a 1st amendment violation.

          There seems to be no possible motivation for this behavior that isn't pretty creepy. Maybe we just have different definitions of wrong.
          • Here's what 'wrong' from an old farts POV: Metaphorically all she has done is read some kids diary, yet I'm reading and commenting about it from 10,000 miles away. Yes it's creepy and unacceptable, but it doesn't require a constitutional lawyer to remedy the situation, nor should she have her life ruined just because she's a parinoid sticky beak. This stuff is just as much social gossip as a Paris Hilton story, it's posted on the front page because we eat it up with gusto, but it ain't news.
          • by Phroggy (441)

            it she was aiming to take action against people who criticized her that should be a 1st amendment violation.

            The 1st Amendment doesn't mean there are no consequences for the things you say, it just means the government can't prevent you from saying them.

            • by rohan972 (880586)
              Nonsense. The government can not legally punish you for protected speech. Such as in this case, criticism of a government official.
    • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @05:10PM (#39904109)

      "or was it just to know the current vibe among?"

      JUST to know the current vibe amount?

      JUST?

      There are so many reasons this is wrong no matter the reasons. Whatever the principal's intentions, you'd still have access to information that if the principal even sees is a possible professional violation. Who's dating/sleeping with who, possible inappropriate pictures for an administrator to see (even kids in their swimsuits is extremely questionable), and yes, opinions on school staff that could bias her opinion in ways that it should not.

      Whatever her intention, there is absolutely no professional excuse. She can't just filter out the safe information from the unsafe without seeing everything, which is the problem.

      • by rohan972 (880586)
        You seem to acknowledge the possibility of good intentions. The "just to know the current vibe" comment you were replying to IS a bad intention. Government employees who deceive in order to monitor private communications are presumed to have bad intentions. If they have good intentions, they would obtain a warrant or be open about who they are and they're doing. The deception proves bad faith.

        Forget the technology, imagine she had called them or wrote a letter claiming to be someone else, or put on a dis
        • My intent was to say that in her own head, she might think her actions were for the good of the school, but professionally there is no gray area in gaining private information on students without their legitimate consent, no matter what that information is.

          So yeah, I agree with you.

  • Know your friends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bbartlog (1853116) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:20PM (#39903725)
    When I was on Facebook, I didn't friend anyone unless I actually *knew* the person. If you friend someone on Facebook just because they friended you and you want a really big number of friends, well... the joke is probably on you.
    • by causality (777677)

      When I was on Facebook, I didn't friend anyone unless I actually *knew* the person.

      I feel the same way. That's why Facebook is completely useless to me and never appealed to me. Make sense? If I had some unhealthy need for the casual attention of strangers and distant acquaintences then I would have a case for using Facebook.

      If I wanted substandard Web hosting or if I wanted to play frivolous mini-games I can do that without the long list of downsides that come with using Facebook.

      • by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3.phroggy@com> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:11AM (#39906637) Homepage

        When I was on Facebook, I didn't friend anyone unless I actually *knew* the person.

        I feel the same way. That's why Facebook is completely useless to me and never appealed to me. Make sense? If I had some unhealthy need for the casual attention of strangers and distant acquaintences then I would have a case for using Facebook.

        If I wanted substandard Web hosting or if I wanted to play frivolous mini-games I can do that without the long list of downsides that come with using Facebook.

        Yes... Facebook is pretty useless if you don't actually have any friends, and I certainly wouldn't suggest that you should use it. For those of us who do have friends, though, it's a convenient way to stay in touch (particularly for friends I can't see regularly because they don't live nearby).

        • Same here. Between friends, colleagues, and relatives, I've got 6 of 7 continents covered.

          I have about 230 friends on Facebook. All but about 20 of them I've met in real life. Those I haven't are colleagues with whom I've worked remotely but not yet had the opportunity to meet face to face.

          I don't friend anybody who's not a real-life friend, colleague, or relative, or who's not someone I've collaborated with professionally. Nor do I feel the need to do so.

    • by Sloppy (14984)

      And even if you know a person by that name, then there's the next problem: authenticating. Hey Facebook, why no PGP signing of profile ids yet?

    • Know your friends

      But if I don't friend them, how am I supposed to keep my enemies closer? :)

      What's shocking is that kids still need to be told this. I thought they were supposed to be smarter than us when it comes to all this social/tech crap.

  • I'm not sure who or what the persons are who do this, but as someone with around 300 Facebook friends, I've received at least 5 friend requests from dummy profiles (fake name, fake profile pic, awfully "sterile" personal info) with an oddly high number of mutual friends. I doubt it was any of our teachers as they use their real profiles and friended us if they wished to, including our principal. Could it be some sort of a bot for harvesting personal information that would otherwise be inaccessible to non-fr
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:32PM (#39903809)

    If "Suzy Harriston" was indeed a fake profile created by Losos, then she violated a recent Missouri law which went into effect this year which bans teachers from friending students. What's worse, the school district seems to be covering up any attempt to find out if that's the reason why she resigned.

    • by arth1 (260657) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @05:46PM (#39904369) Homepage Journal

      If "Suzy Harriston" was indeed a fake profile created by Losos, then she violated a recent Missouri law which went into effect this year which bans teachers from friending students.

      Is a principal considered a teacher here in the US?
      I grew up elsewhere, where the academic staff is separate from general staff, so this is a genuine question.

      • Generally, for HR-type purposes, 'teachers' and 'administrators' are distinct groups(different salary structures, different hiring processes, administrators are frequently not unionized where teachers are, etc.). In practice, much of admin in a school district will have been drawn from the pool of teachers at some point in the past, and will have education and experience in teaching, some fresher than others.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Is a principal considered a teacher here in the US?

        The word "principal" is short for "principal teacher", from way back when.

        I'm not quite sure when principals stopped teaching as a matter of course.

      • by antdude (79039)

        I had principals teach classes as subsititutes in my American schools. So, that seems to count them as teachers.

    • by yoshi_mon (172895)

      I'm a little shocked that there are so many general shrugs in this thread at what she did. Everything between oh well it is Facebook, what do you expect? To that it is FOR THE CHILDREN!

      I may have missed something but that was my 1st thought upon opening this thread was what is the legality here? And it took a lot of comments before anything was said to that point. Le sigh.

    • by Raenex (947668)

      What's worse, the school district seems to be covering up any attempt to find out if that's the reason why she resigned.

      This, to me, is the real story. From the article:

      "The district denied requests for related documents through Missouri's open records law, saying they are confidential personnel records. Losos will be paid through June."

      It's disgusting that the school board is even trying to keep this under wraps, let alone getting away with it. I hope the voters make them accountable.

    • by Phroggy (441)

      Sounds like it didn't actually go into effect: Missouri Repeals Law Restricting Teacher-Student Internet And Facebook Interaction [huffingtonpost.com]

  • by m1kesm1th (305697) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @05:04PM (#39904071)

    if it hadn't been for those meddling kids.

  • by superdude72 (322167) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:52PM (#39904999)

    ...to accept a friend request from someone they've never heard of? Is this why all the kids have 600 FB friends despite their actually pretty limited social circles?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @12:23AM (#39906035)

    Hi, posting AC 'cuz im lazy.

    I went to school with this woman, her older sister was in my class and IIRC they both went to Harvard. My point in saying that is that I'd always had the impression that these were smart ladies. Certainly older sister is, I believe she is a scientist of some sort now. I really don't keep up with people from high school.

    We went to a public high school in a nice part of St. Louis, Louise went back after college and taught there for 8 years apparently.

    If you google her name you will see her LinkedIn page pop up. You can see she has an extensive background getting her degrees, including a Ph.D.

    She is plenty smart to know better than to spy on the students. If she just had to know what was going on in her school, she should have actually taken the time to get to know people and talk to them. To me this is only common sense.

    No telling what happened to that in her 25 years of education/work since she left high school. People change, but I dont see where it is right to spy on kids on Facebook. As a matter of fact, I find it rather nosy and a bit creepy.

    Clayton, Mo. is a wealthy city just immediately west of the city of St. Louis itself, so they will do everything to cover this one up and pretend it never happened.

    • by wrook (134116)

      Maybe if you friend request her on Facebook, she'll let some details slide. Keep us informed!

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