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Student’s careless Facebook post nearly leads to expulsion

"There's a lesson to be learned," Michelle's father said.

A Virginia high school senior won’t be expelled for making a thoughtless, off-color joke about her English teacher on Facebook—but her father says other students can learn from his daughter’s mistake.

The Chesapeake school division on Nov. 9 dropped its recommendation to expel Hickory High School senior Michelle Edwards. Instead, she will be suspended out of school for 90 days but will be able to graduate with her class, said her father, John Edwards.

“There’s a lesson to be learned. I think a lot of kids can benefit from what Michelle did,” he said. “She knows she did wrong. She’s paying for her mistakes, and she doesn’t want to see other kids in the same situation. It’s so easy to post something and not be able to take it back.”

Edwards posted the note Oct. 19 after she and a friend were given a lower-than-expected grade—93 percent—on an English essay. The teacher called part of the essay “incoherent,” and the friend was upset, so Edwards said she commiserated using sarcasm.

“I say we shoot our english teacher in the face,” she posted on the friend’s Facebook wall. “But then again we might not be able to carry that out since we’re so incoherent.”

Another teacher saw the post and reported it, and Edwards has been suspended ever since. School officials recommended her for expulsion, and she was waiting for her hearing before the school board until Nov. 9.

Now that the expulsion recommendation has been dropped, she’ll continue her studies with the help of a teacher sent to her home, her father said. After 90 days, she’ll return to school, and at the end of the year she will be able to graduate with her peers.

“My daughter was trying to make light of the situation,” the elder Edwards said. “It was a poor choice of words. She made a sarcastic statement, and the next thing you know, it’s turned into a full-blown mess.”

Michelle Edwards said she’s never been in trouble, either in school or with the law. When she was called to the office on Oct. 20, she thought she must be getting commended for something. She maintains a grade point average over 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and participates in church activities. On Nov. 6, she spoke to her church youth group.

“I told them you have to watch out what you say,” she recounted. That includes Facebook, she said, where many students don’t think they’re being watched.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Visit The Virginian-Pilot online at Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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