Student, Teacher Face Discipline Over Separate Facebook Postings

Filed under: In The News

Maybe your mother was right. If you don't have something nice to say, perhaps you shouldn't say it all, at least not on Facebook.

As recent incidents have illustrated, school disputes are being played out on the social networking site, and at least one student has been kicked out of of school for his posts.

Taylor Cummings, a high school senior from Nashville, Tenn., was suspended and then expelled after he posted comments on Facebook about his basketball coaches. In early January, Cummings logged into his Facebook account from home and, according to USA Today, posted "among other things, 'I'ma kill em all.' "
School administrators tell the newspaper that Cummings is not the first student suspended or expelled based on social media infractions.

Cummings, whose record does not indicate previous violence or suspensions, wrote an apology letter to his coach, USA Today reports. He tells the newspaper he "never intended to hurt anyone." The family's appeal regarding the expulsion was denied.

The Cummings incident is just one example of schools learning how to deal with privacy rights for students -- and teachers.

USA Today reports a student was suspended from a school outside of Syracuse, N.Y., after creating a Facebook page that "included obscene postings about a teacher."

And, in Apex, N.C., outside of Raleigh, a middle school teacher may be fired after she and her Facebook friends made comments about the teacher's students, "the South and Christianity," according to the News & Observer.

Melissa Hussain, who teaches science to eighth graders, was suspended with pay last week. In her case, the teacher and students had primarily clashed over religious differences. The paper reports that students had put photos of Jesus on her desk and Hussain sent students to the office when they raised questions about creationism in a lesson about evolution.

Hussain wrote on the social networking site that it was a "hate crime" when her students left a Bible on her desk, according to the News & Observer. Hussain also commented on "ridiculous" parents who complained about their children receiving their first B grade in middle school.

The comments were public, until Hussain recently changed the settings, the newspaper reports.

Two years ago, according to the News & Observer, seven school employees in the Charlotte, N.C., area "were disciplined and at least one was fired because of Facebook postings."

Meanwhile, some questions surrounding social media are heading to the courts. In Florida, a federal judge is allowing a student to proceed in a lawsuit against her former principal. Katherine Evans, now a sophomore at the University of Florida, is "seeking to have her suspension expunged from her disciplinary record," the New York Times reports, as well as a payment of her legal fees.

In 2007, Evans was suspended after she created a Facebook page "Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I've ever had," the Times reports. Within a few days -- after past and present students had added comments to the page -- Evans "took down the Facebook page."

Her lawsuit, which may reach the courts by spring, claims her First Amendment rights were violated.

What do you think? Are Facebook postings freedom of speech? Or are suspensions and expulsions warranted?

Related: Grounded Teen Petitions Against Her Punishment on Facebook

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.