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NH Teacher Fired For Refusing To ‘Unfriend’ Students On Facebook

By Michael Rosenfield, WBZ-TV
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CLAREMONT, NH (CBS) – At 79 years old, Carol Thebarge, a long-time substitute teacher, is out of work.

It’s not because she’s retiring but because of a flap over Facebook.

“There’s a paranoia about the Internet and I think that we’re not realizing how valuable Facebook can be used properly,” said Thebarge.

Affectionately known as Mrs. T, Thebarge taught for nine years at Stevens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire.

She was friends with about 250 current students on her Facebook page but that’s against school policy and she was told to ‘unfriend’ them.

“They gave me an ultimatum–either take them all off or you are terminated,” said Thebarge. “And I decided that I would not comply and so I was terminated. And it’s caused a firestorm across the entire area.”

The superintendent says the policy is in place to prevent any boundaries from being crossed.

“Facebook is a wonderful communication tool among friends,” said Dr. Middleton McGoodwin. “But teachers are not students’ friends. She’s a wonderful lady and she’s loved by many but that doesn’t give you allowance to ignore a protocol designed to protect all.”

At school, some students are picketing to get Thebarge her job back.

“She wasn’t harming anybody,” said student Kayla Jennison. “She was a great person and always helps us.”

Elizieh Sheppard, another Stevens High School student holding a protest sign outside school Monday, said, “She was like a second mom to all of us.”

But not everyone is siding with the teacher.

One person posted on Facebook, “Rules are rules and while her intentions MIGHT be good, I am sure parents don’t want male teachers friending their 14/15 year old daughters on facebook!”

Despite the picket and a petition now circulating to get Thebarge reinstated, school officials say she won’t get her job back unless she complies with the policy.

Thebarge says she won’t be going back to the school district even if she is allowed to return.

And her 35-year teaching career could be over.

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