Students have long been warned against connecting with those they don't know on Facebook, but few at Clayton High School in Missouri could have anticipated that a presumed classmate requesting their friendship on the social networking site was actually their principal.
Clayton High School Principal Louise Losos resigned Friday, effective June 30, following a leave of absence that began April 9, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The School District of Clayton, however, has declined to confirm whether the move is related to an accusation that Losos had created a Facebook profile pretending to be a student named Suzy Harriston.
Suzy Harriston was popular, with 300 friends on Facebook, many of whom were Clayton High students. But on April 5, former Clayton High student Chase Haslett posted a public accusation on the Facebook group, "Bring Back Coach Horrell."
"Whoever is friends with Suzy Harriston on Facebook needs to drop them. It is the Clayton Principal," Haslett wrote.
The Facebook group was created in light of a separate incident, in which the high school decided last May to remove physical education Sam Horrell as the football coach after he gave strength training advice to Clayton middle school students. The move violated Missouri State High School Activities Association regulations, according to KTVI, and parents believe that community uproar in response to the school's decision against Horrell may have catalyzed distrust between students and principal Losos.
Soon after Haslett's post, Suzy Harriston disappeared from Facebook, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. One day later, Losos took leave of absence. The weeks between Losos' leave of absence and Friday's resignation were ones of silence from the school board amid investigations, but officials did confirm that no "Suzy Harriston" had been enrolled at the school in the last two years.
"The District and Dr. Losos had a fundamental dispute concerning the appropriate use of social media," according to a district statement provided to Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch. "She will remain on a leave of absence for personal reasons for the remainder of the 2011-2012 school year."
Clayton School District officials are scheduled to meet with Clayton High faculty and students Monday, KMOX reports.
The Missouri legislature created a bill last year that barred teachers from using websites that allow "exclusive access" with students aged 18 or younger. When teachers fought the rule, a judge granted an injunction, declaring that the law "would have a chilling effect" on free speech. The restrictions were repealed, and lawmakers passed a new law that requires districts to develop their own social media policies.
Meanwhile, Clayton parents are looking forward to more transparency from the district.
"If the district is aware this allegation is true they should be up front and honest and clearly explain to parents what has happened," parent Andy Brown told KSDK. "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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