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.
At least two of the students' families plan to hire attorneys. Douglas County School officials said the three students violated the disciplinary code but that they could not comment because the parents plan to fight the disciplinary charges in a school tribunal on March 10, 2011. The students could face even harsher penalties, including expulsion and banishment to a school for children with behavior problems.
The case will be very important in deciding what falls under free speech and what the school can discipline students for. We'll definitely be hearing more about this one as Facebook and other social networks continue to grow in popularity.
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.