In February, the Clayton School Board adopted new social media guidelines that placed severe limits on interaction between teachers and school administrators and the students attending their school on social networks. Unfortunately, the carrier pigeon holding the news to the principal of the Clayton High School got lost on the way. Yesterday, after four weeks on a leave of absence, the school board announced that Principal Louise Losos will be resigning her position effective June 30th.
Although the district spokesman didn’t elaborate on the reasons behind the move, the backstory wasn’t hard to piece together. In violation of the new district policy, Losos created a fake Facebook account and friended nearly 300 Clayton students.
He nom-de-Facebook was Suzy Harriston, a student who claimed to have been attending the school for two years.
The eventual unmasking came courtesy of a former student and the school quarterback via a post on the “Bring Back Coach Horrell” group.
“Whoever is friends with Suzy Harriston on Facebook needs to drop them. It is the Clayton Principal,” wrote Chase Haslett.
And then, Suzy Harriston disappeared, say those who saw the profile.
Losos’ popularity with her students was eroded greatly last year after the firing of the school’s popular football coach Sam Horrell from his coaching job because he gave weight-lifting advice to students in the Clayton Middle School. This interaction violated the Missouri State High School Activities Association by-laws which circumscribe the circumstances under which a high school coach could approach middle-school athletes. Horrell’s dismissal didn’t sit well with Clayton students, who set up the Facebook group to give themselves an opportunity to talk about it. Although the atmosphere in the group wasn’t strident, students did occasionally voice their displeasure with Losos.
That is when Suzy Harriston started sending friend requests to students who were most active in the group.
Clayton High parent Andy Brown was among Horrell’s supporters who received a friend request from Harriston. He has been a public supporter of Horrell and critic of Losos. Suzy Harriston had been Facebook friends with two of his children since May 2011, he said.
After Haslett’s message unmasking Losos, he got several skeptical posts in reply. One demanded to know how he came by this information, with Haslett declining to reveal his source. But the doubts dissipated when the Harriston account was almost immediately deleted and a check of student records showed that no such student attended Clayton in the past two years. Losos’ leave of absence, which begun the next day, seemed to have put the nail in the coffin of the charade.
Parents and students who friended Harriston were outraged by Loses’ actions.
If administrators were monitoring students’ Facebook activity without being truthful about their identity, that is a breach of trust, Brown said in an interview. As speculation built over the matter, Brown said parents had a right to know if the district was investigating the Suzy Harriston claim.