School Officials Crack Down on Student-Created Facebook Group
Students accused of making racial comments towards teacher
Several students faced disciplinary action last month for their involvement in a Facebook page targeting a teacher at Jonathan Dayton High School.
Students who posted a comment on the page, named "Do you think [teacher's name] looks like Aunt Jemima?" were issued a suspension from school for five days. Students who became a fan of the page on the popular social networking website had a mandatory meeting with the assistant principal and will have follow-up counseling.
Springfield Patch has obtained a copy of the letter sent from Asst. Principal Norman Francis to the parents of students whom the district determined to have joined the page deemed inappropriate.
"On [date removed] it was reported to my office that [student's name removed] accessed Facebook and joined a page that targeted a teacher at JDHS. We have deemed the creation of this page a bias incident based on the derogatory comments. Due to the nature of this offense, an investigation has been conducted that involved Mrs. Cresci, the building principal, Mrs. Atherton, the district affirmative action officer, and Mr. Davino, the superintendent of schools.
"At the conclusion of this investigation, it has been determined that all students that joined 'became a fan of' this page must attend a mandatory meeting with the assistant principal and their parents. Students must also participate in follow-up counseling sessions with the Student Assistance Counselor, Mrs. Sista.
"We also ask that you closely monitor your child's Facebook access and activity."
No information has been released as to the number of students involved, or whether more than one Facebook group has been targeted.
It is not clear how the page was brought to the school's attention, how school personnel determined who was involved, or how the decision was made to issue suspensions and require that students attend counseling.
One of the students who was suspended for writing on the page told Springfield Patch that he doesn't think the punishment fits the crime. "They went way over themsleves on this," he said, "and to get a kid a 5 day suspension for saying 'HAHAHA' is dumb." He also denies the school's claim that the page was racially motivated.
Students have mixed feelings about the way the school district handled the situation.
"It's not right," said one person, in reference to "the recent incidents with students getting in trouble for Facebook groups."
Other students are more understanding of the administration's position.
"They got in trouble for a legitimate reason," another person said. "They used the school laptops to post those things in the group. Therefore, the school has the right to discipline."
But the actions on the part of the administration haven't stopped students from using Facebook as a sounding board for their opinions.
Groups such as "I don't care what JDHS says, I'll join whatever Facebook groups I want" have already popped up in response. Its description reads "to those who refuse to be bullied by Jonathan Dayton's administration."
Thomas Toussaint, the creator of the group condemning the administration's response, doesn't think it is right that students are getting in trouble for comments they made out of school.
"I'm really angry about it because I feel like they're not really respecting our First Amendment rights to say what we want," he said. "Last time I checked, the school doesn't in any way own Facebook."
During last Monday night's Board of Education meeting, Supt. of Schools Michael Davino took time to address inappropriate use of school-issued technology.
"We do not tolerate at any level any use of technology that we provide for education to be utilized in any way but for education," Davino said, "and will prosecute to the fullest extent possible with respect to Board policy and law anyone, student or adult, that will utilize those media to impact our students, our staff, or our system. We will pursue them and prosecute to the fullest extent possible."
Jonathan Dayton Principal Elizabeth Cresci was not available for comments.