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Students Face Expulsion For Calling Teacher Pedophile on Facebook

facebook login pageA 13-year old Georgia girl is facing expulsion and relocation to an "alternative school" after she called one of her teachers a pedophile on Facebook. The girl, Alejandra Sosa, and two of her classmates who commented on the post must now go before a disciplinary tribunal for what Chapel Hill Middle School calls a "level one" offense: the worst category of transgression in the student handbook. Sosa posted the message because she was angry with her teacher, but said it was intended as a joke. She claims that she now regrets posting it, and understands that what she did was wrong.

The parents of the three students, though upset with their kids' behavior, think the school and its principal, Jolene Morris, have gone too far. Sosa claims that Morris took her to the school's library after catching wind of the post. She claims the principal then demanded she log into her Facebook account; she then took the keyboard and mouse from the student to read through her Wall posts, before telling Sosa to delete the messages. The father of William Lambert, one of the other students implicated in the incident, says that Morris also violated his son's privacy by demanding that Sosa log into her Facebook account; Lambert had called the teacher a rapist in a comment on Sosa's original post.

The parents all believe that sending the children to a school for students with behavioral problems will ultimately derail their education. Sosa is an honor student, and Taylor's mother worries that putting the children in that environment is tantamount to telling them to "[be] in a gang and do drugs." The parents have banded together to obtain the services of a lawyer. If the tribunal decides on expulsion and alternative schools, the case could wind up in the courts.

Gerry Weber, an adjunct professor of civil rights at Georgia State University, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that while online comments are subject to libel laws, they're also protected under the First Amendment. The schools do not have the jurisdiction to punish students for "off-campus speech," he said, unless the comments can be proven to have caused an on-campus "disruption." The principal's decision to access Sosa's Facebook account could also play to the students' favor in court proceedings, as it may be seen as a violation of the child's privacy.

Tags: alejandra sosa, AlejandraSosa, education, facebook, first amendment, FirstAmendment, libel, privacy, school, social networking, SocialNetworking, top, web