Facebook page, student's claims fake, officials say

A Facebook page purporting to show a student witness admitting that he lied about a teacher who was fired for helping him and others cheat was a fake, Columbia County school officials said Friday.

School Superintendent Charles Nagle said the student, identified only as "A.H." during his testimony in a dismissal hearing this week for Lakeside High School special education teacher Margaret Mudrak, came to the school board office Friday and logged in to his Facebook account under the supervision of school system Director of Technology James Van Meter.

School officials quickly determined that the student, since identified as Avery Hill, had not accessed his own page since June 1 but that another Facebook page had been created Wednesday by someone "spoofing" Hill's actual page.

"There is no way this is the same person," Van Meter said.

Mudrak was terminated after another teacher reported problems with tests taken by her students.

School officials said they found evidence she had provided test answers for students and made inappropriate changes to some of her students' education plans.

Columbia County school board members voted unanimously to uphold her termination Tuesday after a daylong hearing that included Hill's testimony that she had provided him with an unethical level of test assistance.

The fake Facebook page was created after the board's decision and has since been removed, but not before Van Meter printed screen images from the site.

On the fake page, the Hill impersonator offered a profanity-laced tirade in response to an Augusta Chronicle story about Mudrak's dismissal being upheld, adding "I even lied to proceed the process of her termination!"

Other Facebook users, many of them also Lakeside High School students, then responded on the page with comments that included threats of bodily harm toward Hill.

"This boy has been set up," Nagle said, adding that he plans to review the information with the school board's attorney Monday to determine whether further action needs to be taken, which could include attempting to track down the fake page's creator.

"What this boy went through yesterday is just terrible," he said.

Van Meter said the system deals with fake social networking pages "a couple of times a year, but usually not to this degree."

Past issues have included a fake page that supposedly showed a teacher participating in a wet T-shirt contest and others created to "cyber-bully" students.

"They can be anybody they want to be on Facebook," Van Meter said.

"They can pretend to be another student."

Protect yourself

Some ways to keep your identity safe on Facebook:

- Only accept friend requests from people you know.

- Don't put your full birthday.

l Be "friends" with your child on Facebook, set up rules for "friending," restrict privacy settings and do the occasional search to see what comes up with his or her name.

- Report any suspicious activity on your account.

- Change your password frequently.

-- Sarah Day Owen, staff writer

How it could happen

Unfortunately, it's fairly easy to impersonate someone on Facebook. All that is required is an e-mail address and some basic knowledge about the person.

Facebook does not use any sort of identity verification. Because more than one person can have the same name, duplicates can be made, though that's against Facebook's Terms of Service.

There is also no verification to join a network.

Facebook is largely a self-policed network, but there is a way to report fake or imposter profiles. Report a fake or imposter profile: tiny.cc/rbbf7

More

UGA faces $100,000 fine for hazardous waste violations

The University of Georgia closed its hazardous waste treatment facility on Will Hunter Road and faces a fine of nearly $100,000 after... Read more