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School board: Joplin teacher cleared of wrongdoing in anti-gay Facebook post

Thursday, October 27, 2011
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JOPLIN, Mo. — A high school math teacher in Joplin, Mo., who allegedly posted anti-gay comments on Facebook, including a suggestion that more gay youth should commit suicide, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the school district.

Superintendent C.J. Huff of the Joplin Board of Education said that Jim Whitney’s Facebook account “was compromised” and that there were no findings that would indicate Whitney was responsible for posting the remarks.

In the brief Facebook thread on Oct. 19, a comment that originated from Whitney’s account said, “Moral of the story: Don’t be gay.”

The comment was in response to a former student who had posted a link to a news article about Jamie Hubley, a 15-year-old gay teen from Ottawa who recently committed suicide.

When another commenter replied, “How many more kids have to kill themselves before everyone realizes that this is an actual issue?” the response from Whitney’s account was, “11-13 ought to do it.”

In an email statement to the Joplin Globe on Monday, Whitney did not deny posting the comment on Facebook, only that he “regrets the post appeared:”

“I do not condone bullying or harassment of any kind and I am very aware and saddened by the negative impact this type of behavior creates. I regret that the posts appeared on Facebook. They do not reflect my personal views and I apologize for any and all offenses caused by the comment.”

According to Huff, the board of education discussed the matter in a “closed session” on Tuesday night following its investigation into the incident, reported the Globe.

“It’s unfortunate when you’re dealing with social media and dealing with technology and the potential for people to get on to other people’s accounts and say things that shouldn’t be said,” Huff told KZRG Radio.

The school board did not offer any explanation as to who or how Whitney’s account was compromised, nor whether the comments originated from a school computer, of Whitney’s personal computer.

Whitney has declined to make himself available to comment, and has not issued a statement since his email to the Globe on Monday.

A spokesperson at Facebook told LGBTQ Nation on Thursday that an account is almost impossible to hack unless the user had direct access to the password, or the computer was left unattended while the account owner was logged in.

Facebook employs additional security measures to validate account ownership to prevent accessing user accounts from unknown locations or devices.

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