Smile, Teach! It's Candid Camera!
A kid in a St. Louis 'burb pulls out his cameraphone in a classroom and surreptitously takes pictures of his teacher and posts them on the net. He then gets disciplined.
You KNOW there's more to the story:
Seven grainy classroom photos of a Lafayette High School teacher posted on the Internet by a student are at the center of a federal lawsuit that tests the limits of school discipline in the cyber age.
The suit alleges that school officials violated Logan Glover's constitutional rights of free speech and free expression when they disciplined the sophomore over the incident.
But school district officials say the case is about controlling classroom behavior, not placing a lid on a student's right to communicate online.
"The taking of photographs and posting them on the Internet is not necessarily wrong," said Rockwood Superintendent Craig Larson. "It's the disruption that this caused that prompted us to act."
The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. It also names the boy's father, Jerome Glover, as a plaintiff.
Mark Sableman, a prominent First Amendment attorney with the downtown firm of Thompson Coburn, filed the suit on the Glovers' behalf. He asserts that the photographs were taken during a free-time period and did not disrupt instruction.
"The Glovers believe that the school district took action against Logan because it did not like having the photos posted on (the online social network site) Facebook," Sableman stated Thursday in an e-mail. "The First Amendment and prior cases are clear that school officials do not have the right to discipline students for content they post on the Internet outside of school."
The Glovers, of Wildwood, could not be reached for comment.
Named as defendants in the suit are Lafayette Principal John Shaughnessy and two associate principals, Kirti Mehrotra and Jodi Davidson.
According to an affidavit by Shaughnessy, Glover and two classmates disrupted a language arts class on Nov. 20 when they surreptitiously took the pictures last month of teacher Jessica Hauser.
After school that day at his home, Glover posted the pictures on his private Facebook page. According to the lawsuit, he did not post captions with the photographs, or identify anyone in them.
The suit claims Glover removed the photos on Dec. 6, when school officials confronted him about them.
Glover got a three-day, out-of-school suspension and was permanently barred from Hauser's classroom.
The other boys involved each got three days of in-school suspension. They are not parties to the suit.
"My sense is that there were two disruptions," Larson said. "Taking pictures without the teacher knowing it and sending two kids up there to waste her time. And then there was a later disruption generated when kids started talking about it and showed her (Hauser) the pictures."
The photos show the teacher working at her desk with students nearby. She is handling paperwork as she speaks with two male students. In one picture, a boy gives a thumbs-up to the camera while Hauser looks away.
Hauser could not be reached for comment.
Larson said the incident upset the teacher.
"She didn't know the intent of the pictures," Larson said. "She wondered, 'Why did you do this? What are you trying to do to me by posting these images?'"
The incident highlights the emerging dilemma that the Internet poses for schools. Cyber-bullying, students posing online as teachers, and postings of students engaged in illegal behavior, including taking drugs and drinking, have forced schools to push discipline policies beyond the schoolhouse walls.
"Kids are so good with technology that it's like they're always one step ahead of teachers," said DeeAnn Aull, a spokeswoman for the Missouri chapter of the National Education Association. "And sometimes that technology can be misused."
Hauser's class included a teacher from the Special School District who worked with Glover, who was in the district's Individualized Education Plan under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
According to the suit, the school does not have a substitute class that meets Glover's special needs.
Larson said the district would find a suitable class for the student.
"He's being moved at the teacher's request because she felt like her trust with him was pretty clearly violated," he said.
Peter Jay, a law professor at Washington University, said the case would hinge on whether the district properly articulated its policies regarding use of cameras.
Jay said: "Absent a clearly articulated and regularly followed school policy, my impression is that a student would have a right to take photos of a teacher in the classroom."
Does a student have the right to take photos of teachers?
Technically, our school requires phones to be turned off during the school day, but this is rarely enforced. And I know for a fact that video of my colleagues that is much the same as the above images has been posted online.
Right or wrong? You make the call. Is this a free speech issue? Before you decide, consider this, in which a teacher was accused of being a member of deviant group I shall not name because of Google (I am not going to explain that one):
NORTH BEND, Ohio -- A Web site entry created by three high school students has led to lengthy suspensions and a federal lawsuit.
The Taylor High students are accused of creating an entry in November on Facebook.com, a social networking site, that included the face and last name of a teacher. It referred to him as a "pedophile" and said he belonged to a group that supports sex between men and boys.
The teens were suspended for 10 days and will be expelled for another 80 days after the holiday break. A federal judge ruled this week that the students could remain in school for the time being.
The students said they created the entry in their homes, on their own time, and access was limited to seven people. They claim violation of free speech rights.
The students and their parents filed suit after the Three Rivers School District's school board voted last week to uphold their punishment.
"Each of the boys has written an apology to the teacher and questioned whether they exercised their best judgment," said their lawyer, Marc Mezibov. He said the school district is overstepping its bounds.
The district said there could be school disruptions and harm to teacher morale. The school's principal said that 14 teachers have asked that their photos be removed from the district's Web site since this incident.
The teacher picture on the Facebook site was copied from a district site.
The case will return to court on Dec. 28.
There have similar cases across Ohio and the country, said Scott Greenwood, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. Courts have been ruling that students can't be punished by schools for such off-campus acts and that such suspensions violate free speech, he said.
Unbelievable. And so I guess the fact that ONLY seven kids (supposedly) could see the page (HA!) makes it all a violation of the STUDENTS' rights. I am sure no one at school ever commented or thought of it. And I am sure a written apology compensates for the damage done to this man's reputation and dignity.