Following a posting on a Facebook page about a teacher, three Atlanta-area seventh graders – two of them honor students – found themselves in really hot water.
Twelve-year-olds Alejandra Sosa and William Lambert, III, have been suspended from Chapell Hill Middle School for 10 days. In one status update, Sosa called the teacher a “pedophile,” while Lambert labeled him a “rapist.” Taylor Tindle, 12, already expelled, had called this same teacher “bipolar.”
The reason for the insults? All three were upset at their instructor, although specific reasons for the anger remains undisclosed. It seems logical to me, however, that if the issue between them had been as grave as the insults that were later posted on Facebook hint at, we would know by now.
As many as 15 other students commented on the status updates. Most of them were also punished, although theirs were not as grave — a one day suspension from school, for example.
Sosa and Lambert both faced being expelled from this school and taken to a school for children for behavior problems. The mother of Sosa told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I’m afraid for my daughter. I know [what she did] was not right, but she’s 13… The punishment is hard.”
To make matters more complicated, Sosa is accusing the Douglas County school principal of making her log into her Facebook account and delete the status updates. She and her parents are calling the actions an invasion of the student’s privacy.
She claims Principal Jolene Morris took Sosa to the school library and ordered her to log into her Facebook to read the status updates and comments. The head of the school then ordered the students to delete it all.
While some legal experts say that Facebook wall posts are akin to newspapers and other public media, and thus subjected to libel laws, it is a subject of hot debate whether what a student does online – off-campus and in their free time – can be punished by the school, even if said online activity degrades or offends a teacher or the institution at large. It must be a tough call for the school as well, knowing that if teachers and administrators don’t act tough on this issue, dozens of other students might copy what Sosa and her friends did.
At least two of the families are planning on fighting the disciplinary charges at a school tribunal, according to Fox Atlanta.
Do you think the school’s reaction is too severe, or is it an appropriate message to send to the rest of the students at the institution?