Jan. 29, 2013 at 6:51 PM ET
A 23-year-old high-school teacher in Aurora, Colo., is on administrative leave pending an investigation after a local news station exposed half-naked pics and pot-smoking boasts posted from her Twitter account.
"Watching a drug bust go down in the parking lot. It's funny cuz I have weed in my car in the staff parking lot," read one tweet from the account @crunk_bear, which Denver's 9NEWS connected to Carly McKinney, a first-year 10th-grade math teacher at Overland Park High School after the station received a tip from a viewer.
"Just got called Ms. McCutie. Points for being clever, however you are still jailbait," read another of the teacher's tweets.
McKinney reportedly confirmed to 9NEWs that she and a friend launched @crunk_bear as a parody, adding that she wasn’t aware of what her friend tweeted from the account. According to the report which aired Monday, McKinney also denied having drugs on campus.
The @crunk_bear account was disabled from public view soon after 9NEWS contacted McKinney, the station reports. However, TODAY found vestiges of the account Tuesday afternoon via the search tool for social media analytics company Topsy. Dozens of marijuana-related tweets and retweets were still visible, as well as a handful of racy, semi-nude photos of McKinney, easily identified when compared to her staff photo on the Overland Park High School website. TODAY reached out to McKinney and will update this story if we hear back.
Tustin Amole, director of communications for the Cherry Creek School District, confirmed to TODAY that a teacher had been placed on administrative leave in connection to on-campus drug activity described on a Twitter account. Though she legally could not confirm the teacher’s name, she acknowledged that it was the same teacher seen on the news. Amole did emphasize that “administrative leave” did not equal “disciplinary action.”
“While Colorado voters have legalized marijuana for personal use, it’s still against state and federal law, and having it on school grounds is also against the law," Amole explained. “We fully respect her First Amendment rights, but we need to know if any of her personal behavior violated district policy and/or state or federal law.”
“I live a double life. Teacher by day, stoner/raver/rager by night," read one of @crunk_bear’s tweets, but it turns out that McKinney didn’t keep her “double life” separate enough.
Amole, who noted similar social media fallout in other school districts, chalks up much of this mistake to youth. Young teachers — not to mention their students — “don’t know a world without Facebook or social media,” Amole told TODAY. “I don’t think they understand, if you put something on the Internet, and you regret sharing it with your friends, you can take it down, but it’s still out there. You’ve given up ownership of what you’ve said.”
Even if the school district determines the teacher didn’t violate any laws, “she’s still embarrassed on the 10 o’clock news.”
According to the district rules, a teacher can post whatever he or she wants from a social media account not connected to the school, but in this case the damage may be irreparable. Perhaps it will prove to have some educational value, however.
“I wish it had happened in a different school district,” Amole admits. “But if it serves to show students and other young teachers about the possible consequences, that would be the right outcome.”
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