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WHS dealing with aftermath

Although the word "Facebook" has become second nature for most teenagers, parents of Woodbury High School students and faculty members at the school just become a whole lot more familiar with the term over the last week.

Recent discussions about the popular online social networking site were stirred in the WHS community after four students received consequences from administrators for photos that revealed them drinking alcohol. The photos were displayed on the Facebook. But the method which WHS faculty found out has caused just as much discussion.

The incident occurred Friday, Jan. 25 when a student in an English class revealed photos of some of his peers consuming alcohol in an end-of-the-semester presentation.

According to students close to the situation and confirmed by district officials, the teacher in the class reported the photos to school administrators.

School administrators worked with 12 students regarding the incident and after the situation was flushed out, four students "were administered some kind of consequences," WHS Principal Linda Plante wrote in a letter to parents last week.

Plante said the school district would not reveal anymore details of the incident, but athletic and activities director John Soma said the students who received consequences participate in activities sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

According to MSHSL guidelines, students who participate in sanctioned sports or other extra-curricular activities must agree not to participate in consumption or possession of alcohol, tobacco or any illegal drug or paraphernalia.

MSHSL guidelines

Typically, Soma said, students received consequences for breaking the MSHSL guidelines upon local law enforcement agencies informing school authorities.

In this situation school administrators treated the photos revealed by a student at school were as evidence of activities that were against the MSHSL guidelines.

"It's a different source," Soma said, "But as educators in the state we are obligated to report and deal with situations as they are presented to us. It's different evidence, but the same procedure."

Soma said the school district does not reveal who receives punishments for violating MSHSL guidelines. He said first-time infractions for MSHSL sanctioned-activity participants include suspension of two consecutive contests or 14 calendar days, whichever is greater.

In her letter to parents, Plante said the incident was unfortunate, but "gave us a chance to have some important conversations with the young people we care about.

"We can talk to them about their choices around alcohol and drug use. We can talk to them about the conclusions people might make about them, their school and their family based on how they are portrayed on social networking sites."

In the letter, Plante also reminded parents about the school district's School Age Family Education seminar that took place Monday at Woodbury Lutheran Church. The topic was "Our Youth in an Age of IM and MySpace." More than 100 parents attended the seminar, which talked about the potential benefits and risks children are put in when they participate in online social networking sites.

A week after the incident, students were still discussing the topic with varied opinions about how the situation was handled and how it came about.

WHS senior Laura Schroeder said most students feel like the administration handled the situation appropriately.

She also said the incident reminded many students that perceived privacy among friends on popular social networking sites may not be as private as once thought.

"I think most students think the manner in which the photos were revealed was rude," Schroeder said. "But I think more people will be cautious about who they accept as friends (on the social networking sites). I also think they will think twice about what kinds of information they put up on their profiles."