Teacher calls autistic student 'hot mess,' parents 'crazy' on Facebook

A California special-education teacher is suspended after posting frustrations to her private Facebook page -- which isn't sufficiently private.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
The post in question. CBS Los Angeles/Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Teachers need to take a compulsory class.

It's called Facebook Privacy Controls 101.

It might help them avoid the situation currently occurring in Torrance, Calif., where a special-education teacher expressed herself a little too publicly on Facebook.

As the local Daily Breeze reported last week, the teacher, Suzanne Hutton, posted to her Facebook page:

Well I have an annual IEP this morning with lawyers and crazy parents. The student is a hot mess but so sweet! So after work I'm hitting happy hour at least I have something to look forward too!!! (sic) Deep breath...I'm going in.

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program. Perhaps these words, in private conversation, would have seemed like the normal banter of teachers who are often stressed.

However, even though she posted them to her private Facebook page, her words got out quicker than anyone might have conceived.

It was just before 9 a.m. on December 5 that the post appeared. Just 15 minutes later, the parents of another child at the school had obtained a screen grab and sent it along to the school district's director of special education.

That's how fast technology works. Such speed resulted in Hutton being placed on administrative leave.

A schools district spokeswoman told the Daily Breeze: "The district is investigating the situation. The teacher has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation."

The scrutiny that social networking has brought upon people is, of course, self-inflicted. If you didn't feel the need to post there, no one would have the opportunity of incriminating you.

But teachers make for such easy targets.

Two years ago, a New Jersey teacher was suspended for posting that her students were "future criminals."

And last year, a Tennessee kindergarten teacher offered these heartfelt words about two of her students: "How bout I blasted both of them. The girl in my class hair is nappy almost every day and the boy wears dirty clothes, face nasty and can't even read. They didn't bother nobody else when I got through with them."

These are just two examples among many.

Of course, when teachers are seen to be disparaging about children -- especially those with special needs -- it's inevitable that parental outrage will ensue. Some parents are already calling for Hutton to be fired and never allowed to teach again.

The simplest thing, though, for teachers (and anyone else, for that matter) to learn is that Facebook and other parts of the Web are really the local town crier.

If you need to vent, do it to a real friend in the way that real friends do: over a beer, a private phone line, or a very large pizza at home.