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Facebook photo of students' mouths duct-taped gets Ohio teacher in trouble

An Ohio math teacher could be fired after posting a Facebook photo of her students with duct tape over their mouths, according to local media reports.

Middle school teacher Melissa Cairns told newsnet5.com in Cleveland that she gave a female student a roll of duct tape after the girl asked for tape to fix a binder. Cairns claims the student then cut a piece of tape, put it over her own mouth and laughed. The incident happened last October at Buchtel Community Learning Center in Akron.

"The other kids in the class thought it was funny also, and they proceeded to pass the tape and scissors around the class," Cairns told newsnet5.com.


Ultimately, eight or nine students put tape on their mouths, Akron Public Schools told newsnet5.com. Thinking her Facebook privacy settings would only show her friends, the math teacher posted a picture of the duct-taped students on the social network, with a caption that read, according to newsnet5.com: "Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!"

It was all supposed to be a joke, Cairns told newsnet5.com, adding that the students had encouraged her to take the picture. But the photo was spotted by another employee, who alerted a supervisor, and Cairns was asked to take the picture down.

The Akron School Board is pursuing termination, but the teacher's attorney is filing paperwork for an appeal process, according to newsnet5.com. School board president Jason Haas told the TV station the act violated the students' privacy.

"I would never in a million years do anything to harm students," Cairns told newsnet5.com, who added that she regrets the decision. "Do I feel that this one, stupid mistake should cost me the last 10 years of all the good I've done? Absolutely not."

But Cairns was disciplined in 2007 over references to sex, marijuana and alcohol on her MySpace account,  the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

Cairns is on unpaid leave, the Beacon Journal reported. A referee -- requested by a local teachers union -- will hear the case and present a recommendation to the school board, which will meet on Jan. 28, according to the newspaper.

The issue of teachers questionably engaging with social media isn't new. In 2011, a Chicago teacher posted a photo on Facebook, mocking a 7-year-old schoolgirl's hairstyle. Last summer, a teacher in Florida got in trouble for a Facebook post comparing a student to an orangutan. In 2011, a New Jersey teacher who made anti-gay posts on Facebook was placed on leave. She eventually resigned. 

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