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'Poor judgment' on Facebook might cost jobs

An after-school staffer has been fired and two classroom teachers could face the same fate because of offensive Facebook postings, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokeswoman said Monday.

A total of seven CMS faculty have now been disciplined in connection with pages WCNC, a Charlotte TV station, found on the social networking site.

Jason Dozier, the after-school staffer, listed "Chillin wit my nas" as one of his activities. His page also featured a shirtless photo accompanied by a suggestive exchange with a female. Because his job is classified as "at will" employment, he does not have the right to appeal his firing, chief communication officer Nora Carr said Monday.

A high-school special-education teacher has been suspended for using a Facebook "mood box" to post "I'm feeling ped because I hate my students!" Carr said it is likely she also will lose her job; officials will decide today.

Superintendent Peter Gorman already has recommended firing a Thomasboro Elementary teacher whose page said she was "teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte" and described her students as "chitlins." The Observer is not naming those teachers because their cases have not been resolved.

Her lawyer, John Gresham, said his client intended no offense to her students and simply was telling the truth about Charlotte schools.

This year, 93 percent of Thomasboro's students qualify for lunch subsidies to low-income families, and only 3 percent are white. Gresham says that meets the dictionary definition of ghetto -- a part of the city in which members of a minority group live, "especially because of social, legal or economic pressure."

"I guess the question is, can you be terminated for telling the truth?" Gresham said. "Should she have said, 'I teach children at a starkly resegregated school'?"

Thomasboro -- where 74 percent of students are black, 13 percent are Asian and 6 percent are Hispanic -- is one of 33 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools where fewer than 5 percent of students are white. Gresham said a Google search reveals that "chitlins" is used as slang for children, including on Web pages with white mothers using that label for their own kids.

Unless Gorman changes his mind about firing the teacher, she will be entitled to a hearing with a case manager, Gresham said, followed by an appeal to the school board. CMS also cited photos of the teacher at a bachelorette party in her dismissal letter.

Four other staffers received milder punishment in connection with photos or comments that displayed "poor judgment and bad taste," according to Carr.

Last week a CMS official sent a memo to the district's 19,000-plus employees warning them that postings on social networking sites can cost them their jobs, even if those pages are meant to be private.

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