By Ed Runyan
The Cortland Police Department suspects that an adult created a phony Facebook page for a female teacher at Lakeview High School, then “friended” high-school students and adults and posted possibly threatening remarks.
The phony page apparently was intended to harass the teacher and contained comments that could be considered threatening, Cortland Detective David Morris said.
But when six to 12 Lake-view students were drawn into the phony page, it caused concern among school officials, who say they would prefer that students avoid Facebook.
“We’ve interviewed some of our students, and some say they’ve moved on” from Facebook, said Rich Stevens, Lakeview High School principal. “We’d like kids just to not use Facebook at all.”
Stevens said he realizes that school officials can’t control what students do on social-media websites, but the kids’ online activities “spill over” into the school when unkind remarks show up there.
The school district is hoping to address these issues with an upcoming BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) day to which students will be encouraged to take their own electronic- communication device to school to be used in a project. It will provide the school district with an opportunity to also address issues related to etiquette.
The project can reinforce the amount of good that can come from using the devices, but it also can point to ways that they can be used incorrectly, Stevens said.
“We can’t provide tablets and laptops, but we can still build projects into our classroom,” he said.
The school district talked with the students who friended the phony page and their parents and later used its “One Call” messaging system sent to the telephones of all Lakeview High School students to alert them to the phony Facebook page.
School officials also have used the situation to advise teachers and students that Facebook is not a proper place for them to carry on conversations except in certain situations such as sports cancellations, for example.
Morris said the police department secured a subpoena requiring Facebook to identify the person who created the phony page, but Facebook has been slow to respond.
The comment seen by a student and then reported to her parent could be construed as threatening, not to the school, but the word “Lakeview” was used in a separate post, Morris said.
The same teacher made a complaint last month regarding a similar problem, Morris said.
The detective said he uses Facebook regularly, but he and many other law-enforcement officers have learned from other officers’ and firefighters’ mistakes that social-media sites such as Facebook are not private.
“I believe you should not be embarrassed to see [your posts] on the 6 o’clock news, and kids should look at it that way, too,” he said, adding that the department has investigated a “handful” of complaints regarding embarrassing comments posted about Lakeview High School students.