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In the Media

article imageHigh school principal accused of ‘spying’ on Facebook resigns

article:324467:8::0
By Anne Sewell
May 8, 2012 in Internet
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Clayton - Turns out the principal may have had a false Facebook page with 300 friends, many from the same high school. This made it easy for her to spy on students' posts.
Interacting with students on social media networks, if allowed, requires caution and professionalism. Just as it would in a classroom situation.
However, in Clayton, Missouri several students and their parents apparently accepted a Facebook friendship request from one "Suzy Harriston". There was a nondescript profile photo, but the "person" apparently had more than 300 friends. Many of these friends were from Clayton High School, so people accepted the requests.
However, it seems that "Suzy Harriston" could very well be the school's principal, Louise Losos.
A 2011 graduate from the school, Chase Haslett, posted on Facebook on April 5: “Whoever is friends with Suzy Harriston on Facebook needs to drop them. It is the Clayton Principal.”
This post attracted several responses including the obvious: “How do you know?”
Haslett’s response to this was: “Can’t say who told me.”
Since Haslett made this allegation on Facebook 4 weeks ago (the post has since been removed), "Suzy Harriston's" profile has mysteriously disappeared. And it was then announced that the high school principal would begin a leave of absence.
Chris Tennill, who is the chief communications officer for the School District of Clayton, wrote in an email, “As this involves personnel, we are not able to provide any additional details at this time.”
However, on Friday, Losos officially resigned from her post.
The school district has made no further comment on Losos' leave of absence and resignation. Tennill states that they will not elaborate on the nature of Losos' social media activity. They will not admit whether she was, in fact, the person behind Suzy Harriston's Facebook page. However officials did confirm that no "Suzy Harriston" had been enrolled at the school in the last two years.
The official policy of Clayton High School with regards to electronic communication between staff and students is that staff must “maintain professional boundaries,” and communication should be for “educational purposes” only.
Naturally if the Suzy Harriston character was, in fact, Louise Losos this clearly goes against the grain, as students did not know they were giving a school official access to their online Facebook activities.
Currently there is no clear rule stating how, exactly, schools can use social media, or whether teachers should be able to monitor students' after-school activities. For example, in Seattle teachers have the right to punish their students for what they post on social media after school hours. Apparently in Mississippi, high school administrators forced a cheerleader to reveal her Facebook password and she was later punished over what they found in her account.
Last year, legislature in Missouri created a bill barring teachers from using websites that allow "exclusive access" with students aged 18 or younger. Teachers tried to fight this rule, and a judge granted an injunction, declaring that the law "would have a chilling effect" on free speech. Restrictions were then repealed and a new law was passed that requires districts to develop their own policies with regard to social media.
More recently, in New York City, the Department of Education banned student-teacher interactions on social media.
In the meantime, Clayton parents are seeking more transparency from the district.
One of the parents, Andy Brown told KSDK, "If the district is aware this allegation is true they should be up front and honest and clearly explain to parents what has happened."
He continued, "These are our children, that we entrusted to the care of Dr. Louise Losos. If she is guilty of these allegations it is our right to be informed. It was our children she was monitoring. Neither us or our kids ever gave any permission or authorization for Dr. Louise Losos to view and monitor their non-school related activities."
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