Teen sues after suspension for Facebook-hating teacher

A recent high school graduate is suing her former principal after he suspended her for posting negative comments about a teacher on Facebook.

Katherine Evans, an 18-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Fla., thought her English teacher, Sarah Phelps, was "the worst teacher I've ever met."

As any fine, young citizen of the 21st century does, she thought it aloud on Facebook.

The principal of Pembroke Pines Charter High School, Peter Bayer, didn't think much of her thoughts. He suspended her for "bullying and cyberbullying harassment towards a staff member.''

So, now that she is all grown up and in college, Evans has decided to sue--with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit claims that Katherine's First Amendment rights were violated. You know, the ones about the "free and unfettered exchange of ideas and opinions in the public arena."

As with so many social-networking lawsuits these days , I find myself teetering on the edge of bemusement.

CC Jakob Botter

When she put her comments on Facebook, Evans invited other classmates to join in the dislikefest. Instead, several posted in support of the teacher. One even suggested to Evans: "Whatever your reason for hating (Sarah Phelps) are, they are probably very immature."

Oh, we never grow out of immaturity. Really we don't.

However, after a couple of days and, it seems, little support, Evans took the comments down. This didn't prevent her from being suspended for three days and removed from her Advanced Placement English class. You know, the one with the horrible/lovely teacher.

Still, Evans is now attending the University of Florida. Presumably she wanted to be a Gator not a hater, so how was she really harmed by the suspension?

And why did she choose this moment to file a lawsuit? Her lawyers say her aim is to get the suspension removed from her academic record, as a potential future employer might not look kindly on cyberbullying.

Can it be just that? Or could it be that Katherine's ego needs a little win? After all, she will now be far more famous for the lawsuit than she was for the suspension. And anyone looking to hire her in the future will Google her and discover the alleged cyberbullying anyway.

One might also ask whether the school really needed to suspend her. In fact, did the three-day banishment show just a little touch of ego-flexing on the part of the principal? Strangely, it was two months after the Facebook posting that the suspension was announced. And if "the worst teacher I've ever met" was the worst thing posted, one imagines that it might not have been the worst thing the principal has ever heard.

Now both parties find themselves in Legaland--where no one has fun, even when they've won.

My teachers were all lovely. Except for Mr. Craig, the math teacher. I think he's dead now.

 

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