Teacher posts picture of students with duct-taped mouths, faces privacy violations

Teacher posts picture of students with duct-taped mouths, faces privacy violations


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AKRON, Ohio — Parents were enraged after an Ohio middle school teacher posted a picture of their children on her Facebook page depicting the teenagers with duct tape across their mouths. The Akron school board is considering whether to terminate her.

Melissa Cairns, 33, was hired by the Akron Public Schools in August 2007, and began teaching math at the middle school Buchtel Community Learning Center in August 2012. Cairns posted the picture of nine of her students with duct tape on their mouths on her Facebook page in September or October. The caption on the photo read, "Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!"

One of the major red flags raised from the situation is the issue of privacy. Many parents and members of the school board feel that the picture is an invasion of the students' privacy.

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"This is the start of my sixth year on the board," Akron Board of Education President Jason Haas told ABC. "In that time, we haven't had a case come before us for potential disciplinary action for posting a picture to social media websites. Has she violated the students' privacy? That's what we're concerned about. Everyone seems to be focused on the duct tape."

Cairns says she posted the picture online as a joke. She said she originally gave one of the students the duct tape so she could fix her binder. But Cairns said that when she handed the student the strip of duct tape, the student placed it over her mouth and laughed. The other students wanted to join in and then asked Cairns to take a picture of them.

"Do I think that this one mistake should cost me the last 10 years of all the good I've done?" Cairns said to ABC News affiliate WEWS-TV in Cleveland. "Absolutely not. When your emotions are involved, that's when you learn things."

But Haas says that the students' privacy has been violated and that there should be consequences for it. Haas told WEWS-TV that "students are protected under federal law and have certain protections."

"It would look like that potentially violates those protections," Haas said.

But will this set a new precedent for the school board? Haas said it's difficult to determine.

Cairns was put on paid administrative leave on Oct. 19. On Jan. 14, the seven-member board of education was given criteria to consider whether Cairns should be let go. A decision has not been made yet.

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Faith Heaton Jolley

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