School punishes teacher for student-produced story

MICHIGAN -- A quick scan through profiles on reveals some high school students baring skin and proudly displaying alcohol bottles. But broadcasting such profiles at school as part of a student-produced news segment about the dangers of Myspace caused a journalism teacher to get reprimanded.

Devon Fralick, a broadcast teacher at Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores, Mich., was put on paid leave for more than a week last month after an eight-minute MySpace segment aired on Feb. 28 on the high school's in-house TV network. The piece was created by students Neil Willougby and Scott Sobanski to warn students of the perceived dangers of posting personal information on networking Web sites.

MySpace is a social networking site that allows people to post personal profiles with photos, share music and videos and maintain online journals.

Fralick is back at school, but declined to comment for this story. Her union representative, Jane Cassady, said they are not ready to put the ordeal behind them.

''We're not finished in dealing with the administration on this,'' Cassady said. ''But the most important thing is she's back in the classroom.''

Cassady would not comment on whether she thought Fralick's punishment was too severe.

The segment featured profiles of students drinking alcohol, posing provocatively or partially nude and in one case, a student was kissing a vodka bottle, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.

Willougby, one of the students who worked on the segment, told the Free Press that faces and body parts were distorted in the presentation to protect the identity of students.

''The point of the presentation was to show that kids are being irresponsible when posting their profiles,'' Willoughby told the Free Press.

Fralick told Willoughby she thought the segment was racy but that maybe that is what was needed to hit home with teenagers, the regional paper reported.

Lakeview Public Schools Superintendent Sandra Feeley Myrand apologized to students and staff in a written statement she issued the day after the segment aired. Attempts to contact Feeley Myrand were unsuccessful.

In a March 2 press release, Assistant Superintendent Karl Paulson said, ''Addressing the danger of was an important part of this piece; unfortunately, the selection of photographs, language and music within the piece raised questions and concerns by both students and parents.''

Paulson also said in the release that Fralick was placed on a paid leave of absence as ''a matter of legal protection for both her and the district.''

Cassady declined to say what specific action, if any, Fralick would take against the district. Fralick has taught at Lakeview for nine years.

Lakeview High School, Michigan, news