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Facebook page, student's claims fake, officials say

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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

Comments (79) Add comment
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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/13/10 - 10:03 am
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From the article: "This boy

From the article:

"This boy has been set up," (Superintendent Charles) 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.

I hope the school system follows up on this tomorrow.

“A.H.” is either the victim of a dirty trick, or he committed perjury in a legal hearing. I hope it is the former.

lenab
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lenab 06/13/10 - 10:26 am
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Little Lamb wrote: I'm sure

Little Lamb wrote: I'm sure it's a real ego trip, a real high, for a special ed teacher to obtain bragging rights that her special ed students got higher average scores than the regular ed students.

LL, I want to reply to this comment you wrote since it was in response to one of my earlier posts. Mrs. Mudrak never bragged about these students doing better on this test. She never graded the test, the regular ed teacher graded the test. Mrs. Mudrak had no way of knowing at that time how well they had done. Even as Mrs. Shephard brought these tests to Mrs. Sprouse, I doubt if she had the time to grade all of her students tests for 3 periods (about 60+ tests) and then average the class grades.

secretagentman
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secretagentman 06/13/10 - 10:34 am
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Little Lamb- "anyone" meaning

Little Lamb- "anyone" meaning it could be "anyone" associated with the case with an ax to grind, or it could be the student involved, etc It wasnt meant to be taken so literally :)
I am a high school teacher and we dont have time to be so concerned with what one test average is compared to another teacher... regardless of whether or not we are special ed or regular ed.
The point of my original post was that the article about the facebook page is laughable, based on what was reported. It is not hard to create an additional facebook page, at all. According to the post of the LHS student, this was indeed the real page of the student and when he realized he was in trouble, he then changed it-- all of these things are doable in a matter of clicks....

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/13/10 - 11:30 am
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Yes, lhsstudent made some

Yes, lhsstudent made some allegations on this thread. Perhaps they are true and perhaps not. Van Meter made some allegations also. We must wait for the investigation to see which one is more believable.

735
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Barry Paschal 06/13/10 - 12:09 pm
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I doubt the matter will go

I doubt the matter will go any further. The student whose page was "spoofed" lacks the ability to push any kind of investigation to determine who created the page. After interviewing the student Friday morning, the school system is satisfied the page was faked and, in any event, knows their case neither rose nor fell based on his testimony, so they have no need to pursue it further, and I doubt they will. Mrs. Mudrak's attorneys would perhaps have some credibility to gain by proving the page wasn't faked, but that would be quite a gamble on their part because it still wouldn't be enough to overturn the case except in the court of public opinion (which has no jurors on this particular case). The posters on this site certainly would like to know who created the page, but their only incentive is the satisfaction of curiosity - and they, like the media, have no legal standing to take the steps to demand it. If I had to guess, I'd say those inclined to believe the witness will continue to do so, and those inclined to support Mrs. Mudrak will continue to do so - no matter what happens next.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/13/10 - 12:42 pm
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That's a good analysis,

That's a good analysis, Barry. It's time to move on to the appeals and the professional standards hearing. Hopefully the Facebook page episode will not enter into any of those.

schoolparent
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schoolparent 06/13/10 - 12:55 pm
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Well it seems that Little

Well it seems that Little Lamb and Barry are ready to close the door and move.

735
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Barry Paschal 06/13/10 - 01:38 pm
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What do you expect to happen,

What do you expect to happen, schoolparent? Neither I nor Little Lamb are part of the appeals process. All we've offered, like you, are opinions on a topic in which none of us are directly involved.

lenab
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lenab 06/13/10 - 01:56 pm
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Little Lamb wrote: It's time

Little Lamb wrote: It's time to move on to the appeals and the professional standards hearing.

You are right Little Lamb, according to today's paper "Charles Nagle said on Thursday that his office will ask the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to investigate Mudrak." It was asked during Tuesday's hearing why Mr. Nagle hadn't done that earlier. It was Mr. Nagle's responsibility to report Mrs. Mudrak to the GPSC when he first believed she had acted unethically.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/13/10 - 02:13 pm
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Boy, just think of the

Boy, just think of the permutations, Lena! We have a “given” in that the Col. Co. BOE says the teacher violated standards and that dismissal is reasonable.

Next, the State BOE could agree with the Col. Co. BOE and the PSC could agree with both.

Or, the State BOE could disagree with the Col. Co. BOE and the PSC could agree with the Col. Co. BOE.

Or, the State BOE could agree with the Col. Co. BOE and the PSC could disagree with the Col. Co. BOE

Or, the State BOE could disagree with the Col. Co. BOE and the PSC could also disagree with the Col. Co. BOE.

I would think that since the matter has gone into the "fair dismissal" hearing process, that the only thing that will matter is what the State BOE says. That is, wouldn't the PSC pretty much be irrelevant at this point?

In any event, Ms. Mudrak's lawyers have vowed to appeal into the court system if the State BOE agrees with the Col. Co. BOE. More permutations.

schoolparent
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schoolparent 06/13/10 - 03:55 pm
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Barry,maybe a well written

Barry,maybe a well written investigative article from the AC would be sufficient to close things out.

735
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Barry Paschal 06/13/10 - 05:29 pm
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Investigating exactly what,

Investigating exactly what, schoolparent? This was a dismissal hearing. I highly doubt it's practical to launch some sort of investigation for every employee who loses his or her job. The only thing that makes this particular job loss remotely compelling is that the person losing her job has lots of friends, and they are able to publicly second-guess the actions of her employer. Perhaps their efforts would be better expended in helping her prepare the next round of appeals.

schoolparent
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schoolparent 06/13/10 - 06:41 pm
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The AC and the News and

The AC and the News and Times reported this story with a couple of articles in your papers.I would assume that there is something remotely compelling for the paper to invest time and money in this compelling job loss.I am truly interested in what the truth is here,nothing more.

735
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Barry Paschal 06/13/10 - 10:09 pm
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I agree, schoolparent, but we

I agree, schoolparent, but we also know when there's no more cloth to pull from a thread. There's an appeals process to complete, but other than that, this story is pretty much tapped out.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/14/10 - 07:00 am
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The story about the fair

The story about the fair dismissal hearing is tapped out, for sure. But the story about the Facebook page might still garner some interest. To create a fake Facebook page that makes a student appear guilty of perjury would seem to be a matter that might need to be addressed by law enforcement authorities. If a fellow student attacked A.H. this way, perhaps juvenile authorities should try some "scared straight" tactics to encourage the perpetrator not to do this any more. If, however, the person who made the fake Facebook page is an adult, then more serious attention should be given. Nothing will happen if the news media do not probe the Facebook page story. Barry is likely correct that Pete Fletcher and Charles Nagle would rather the whole story go away.

735
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Barry Paschal 06/14/10 - 08:16 am
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Well, let's be clear, LL: I

Well, let's be clear, LL: I never said Nagle and Fletcher would rather the story go away (though I'm sure that's correct). What I said is they're satisfied AH had nothing to do with the faked page, and thus they have no incentive to pursue it further. The only people with the incentive to pursue it and the legal standing to do so are the defense attorneys and AH's family: The defense attorneys to prove him a liar, AH's family to clear his name. The defense attorneys have little to gain, since it wouldn't change their case anyway, and AH's family evidently lacks the ability to pursue it. So after everyone gnaws on it in speculation a little longer, it'll die on its own. That's my guess. (And for the record, I need to clear up an error I made much earlier: James Van Meter does NOT have the IP address from the page; he has enough information from what they were able to save from the now-removed page to be able to GET the IP address. But he does NOT have it. That's my mistake.)

secretagentman
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secretagentman 06/14/10 - 08:28 am
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I think it is possible the

I think it is possible the kid made the comments on the page and then got rid of them when he realized it could mean big trouble for him...it wasnt a "separate" page... other kids saw it and have posted here about that... but, really, it is so simple to make a fb page, anyone who uses facebook couldve made a fake one. If an adult associated with the case did that, it is highly diabolical.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/14/10 - 09:38 am
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What do mean by this,

What do mean by this, SecretAgentMan?

. . . it wasn’t a "separate" page . . .

Riverman1
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Riverman1 06/14/10 - 03:02 pm
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According to Austin, the BOE

According to Austin, the BOE is taking legal action to determine who made the web page.

lenab
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lenab 06/14/10 - 03:44 pm
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Yes Riverman, The CCBOE faxed

Yes Riverman, The CCBOE faxed a statement to the Chronicle saying that it was gathering the paperwork to get the IP address from Facebook. This information is online through the Chronicle. The online story gives a phone number for anyone who has information to offer regarding the Facebook page in question.

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