Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Schools: False Facebook accounts not ours

Police, district investigate online mystery

Express Staff Writer

Following complaints by parents to the Hailey Police Department, Wood River High School officials have denied having created false Facebook identities to spy on students.

Police Chief Jeff Gunter said several parents reported that their children had told them that two Facebook identities, for "Jenny Lucas" and "Tina Gill" were created by school administrators, one at the high school and one at the middle school.

High school Principal John Blackman said he was outraged to learn of the rumors after speaking to Gunter on Tuesday morning.

"We don't do business that way," he said. "We would never do this, spying on kids. That would be a huge breach of trust. We don't go looking for trouble. We are not "Dateline NBC" trying to set someone up."

In fact, Blackman said, he feels someone is trying to set up the two school officials.

"Trying to slander two prominent administrators in the school is just grossly irresponsible," he said. "It is not a joke anymore."

Asked why someone would want to cause trouble for the two men, Blackman said both deal with discipline matters and all it takes is "one [angry] kid."

"Someone has an axe to grind," he said.

Blackman said officials had traced the "Jenny Lucas" account to a start date of March 1. In six weeks, Lucas, listed as a student at Wood River High School, class of 2010, befriended 743 people, many of them teenagers living in the Wood River Valley. "Tina Gill," of Sun Valley, Nev., lists The Community School '09 as her high school, and has a roster of 312 friends, many of them the same as Lucas'.

"The thing that scares me as a parent and a principal is these kids are getting on these sites like Facebook and MySpace and giving out information to people and they have no idea who these people are," Blackman said. "They could be pedophiles. They could be anyone. But they are not school officials."

Gunter said police contacted Facebook on Monday to investigate who set up the accounts.

"Facebook security has been uncooperative and not returned phone calls," he said. "There is really nothing criminal, probably, but we are looking into it."

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