CENTERBURG — A Centerburg High School student was suspended for three days for bringing explicit material into the school, following a school investigation that resulted in the resignation of a middle school teacher and coach.
High school principal Mike Hebenthal said one of two students involved in the investigation was suspended and the other was not disciplined by the school.
“I have no legal authority to discipline students who have done something outside of school and off school property,” he said. “The one student who was suspended was suspended for bringing inappropriate material into the building through electronic means. That’s the standard procedure if someone brings in inappropriate material — it’s an automatic three-day suspension for showing it to other students.
“According to Ohio law, I have to have a reasonable suspicion of inappropriate images or messages before I can search a student’s cell phone. If another student comes to me and says ‘he showed this to me’, then I have the authority to say, ‘I want to see your phone.’”
Hebenthal said that based upon advice from the district’s legal counsel, the three-day suspension was the most the school was able to do.
The school board accepted the teacher’s resignation in a special meeting on Sept. 16 and the Ohio Department of Education will determine if further disciplinary measures against the teacher will be taken.
An editorial in the Sept. 24 edition of The Trojan Crier, the student newspaper, called for swift and just action in the matter.
“Who knows what kind of damage could be done to other teachers’ reputations while involved students are allowed to think all is well,”it stated. “We believe that students and teachers should conduct themselves well both inside and outside of school. The line has definitely been crossed, and we expect the administration to swiftly see to the issue.”
In reference to Facebook activity by minors, assistant Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville said parents need to be aware that Facebook and other social networking media carry the same possibilities for misuse as cell phones.
“Parents need to be aware of, and take responsibility for, what their children are doing on Facebook,” he said.