High School Student Suspended After ‘Surprise’ Facebook Post Is Interpreted As Threat

Roberta, GA — A Crawford County High School student was suspended after his plan to show up to school dressed as Santa Claus was misinterpreted as a threat by a parent.

Around 7 pm Tuesday, sophomore John George III wrote on Facebook, “Students of cchs ur in for a big surprise tomorrow <let the games begin>.”

A parent thought the post was a threat — given the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week — and called the police. An officer interviewed the parent and reviewed George’s Facebook page. He said it “appeared to have a very Gothic and dark theme” and had references to fighting and gangs.

Two officers went to the George family home around 10 pm Tuesday and questioned the teen and his parents. George told the officers that the surprise he was referring to was a plan for him and two friends to go to school dressed as Santa Claus and elves. His mother confirmed the plan, saying that he had bought a Santa Claus costume, and the high school student said he had told a teacher at the school about his intentions.

The police report filed by the officers said, “We then spoke briefly about the nature of the post and how with the recent tragedy of school shootings that had occurred that the post could cause unrest if taken the wrong way. We then left the residence without further incident.”

At the request of CCHS principal Mike Campbell, George was escorted off the school bus directly to the principal’s office by police the following morning. Campbell issued a news release that called the post “disturbing” and said George had been suspended while the matter was being investigated.

Police Chief Ben Thomas said he understand how the post could have been misinterpreted as a threat of violence against members of the school community.

“I guess it could have been that, with all the stuff that happened in the elementary school last week, the shootings and all, have people concerned,” he said.

The teenager’s father, John George Jr., said:

“We don’t own any guns. We don’t have any of that stuff going on here and we don’t believe in it. We’re a good family. He’s a mouthy kid like all of them, but he comes back in tune with everything and doesn’t cause any problems.”

In light of recent events, such as students taking guns to school and the spike in gun sales following the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it is understandable that the school would be cautious about George’s post. Still, after the police confirmed that he only intended to spread some holiday cheer, the suspension may have been a step too far.

What do you think? Should John George III have been suspended over his Facebook post?