High school Santa suspended for poorly worded Facebook post

A Georgia teen wanted to spread some holiday cheer, not holiday fear. But that’s not how his school interpreted it.

John George III, 16, announced on Facebook he was planning to dress up as Santa Claus and give out candy to his high school classmates. All well and good—except that he wrote an additional post, saying his classmates were in “for a big surprise.”

When a concerned parent saw that, she called police.

On Tuesday night, the cops met with George and determined he meant no harm. But when they turned the case over to the school, the principal suspended George indefinitely on Wednesday.

“It’s very unfair … they took it the wrong way,” said the teenager’s father, John George Jr., to the Telegraph of Macon. He said the school misunderstood and the principal overreacted.

School superintendent John Douglas defends his decision by saying they were being cautious—especially after last week’s events in Newtown, Conn.

“If I had to do it over again, we’d do the same thing, just to be cautious,” Douglas said to the newspaper. He added that it would be against the school’s interest if “we knew about this ahead of time, and we did nothing, and something happened.”

Douglas also assailed George III’s wording of the Facebook post, calling it “kind of disturbing.”

His father admits the Facebook comment was poorly timed, but the school should have spared his son of embarrassment from the bus driver who asked George III to empty his backpack in front of everyone. The candy he brought dropped from his backpack to the ground in the front of the bus, his father said.

A anxiety-riddled George III keeps asking his father if he’s going to jail. Dad says the incident has altered his son’s impression of Christmas.

“He feels that he was done wrong, and he doesn’t really understand it all yet,” said George. “This has been totally worked up after what happened in Connecticut.”

George Jr. said students are slandering his son by comparing him to Adam Lanza, the Connecticut shooter. He told the newspaper the school should’ve dropped the case after the police determined the Facebook post wasn’t threatening.

School officials said the suspension was an act of self-protection, nothing more, and plan to work with George III to correct any issues caused by other students and missed schoolwork.

“We’re not trying to hurt this kid,” said Douglas. “Everyone’s got to be more sensitive to what’s going on around us.”

Photo by Doug Kerr/Flickr

Jordan Valinsky

Jordan Valinsky

A former editorial operations specialist and staff writer for the Daily Dot, Jordan Valinsky is a tech reporter and web culture commentator. His work has been published by the Week, Digiday, CNNMoney, Popular Mechanics, Vice, Mic, and Betabeat.