Internet community prompts investigation into alleged teacher-student relationship

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — More information about what could have led investigators to an alleged relationship between a Brookwood High School teacher and student has surfaced.  According to sources close to the situation, it may have all started in an online forum known as 4chan. That’s where a group of people took interest in a photo that was anonymously shared, but with the caption “photos that shouldn’t be posted.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, one of the first questions that reporters asked Tuscaloosa County School Superintendent Dr. Liz Swinford was, ‘Who sent the school system the links to hundreds of pictures and text messages–allegedly showing a Brookwood High School teacher and student engaging in an inappropriate relationship?’

“To be honest with you, I can’t answer that because who sent the links identified themselves as concerned citizens or concerned mothers or different names. No real identity,” Swinford explained.

However, after the story ran on Wednesday, media sources got a call from a person who claims to know the group of people who first started bombarding the school system with information. He wants to be identified as “Michael” although that is not his real name.  He’s not even from Alabama, but he claims that he was at least one of the people who contacted local law enforcement about the allegations.

“I was kind of surfing online on a website that you post anonymous to,” he said. He identified that website as the 4chan’s /b/ board.

“Somebody posted a picture of themselves and a young girl, and the caption was photos that shouldn’t be posted.” Michael said the photo wasn’t particularly provocative, but it caught a lot of peoples’ attention. They did a reverse Google image search, and that led them to over 700 pictures in an unprotected online photo album.

“There were about 713 [photos] of this person and this young girl with videos and everything else. So upon further searching online, we figured out immediately that it was a teacher at Brookwood and a student, and then it kind of blew up from there,” Michael said.

There were possibly hundreds of people that started either researching or simply following the story on the forum.  “We literally have the entire story. From start to finish, we even did a graph and sent it along with all of the stuff. We notified the school, we notified the friends, we notified the family,” he said.

Media sources asked Michael why he–and so many others–took so much interest in this story.

“Because there’s no excuse.  Even if she was 18, that’s still not an excuse,” he explains.  “I don’t care if the student was 21.  You’re a teacher, you’re in charge of that student,” he replied.

Michael said he started collecting information and screenshots to alert the police. However, some of the other people involved had different ideas about how to handle the situation.  Michael said the teacher was the person who initially posted that first photo on 4chan, and he began to interact with the others online.

“I watched it as it went down,” Michael said. “They were threatening to expose him if he didn’t do certain stuff. So they were having him put the website name on his forehead and do the loser image with his thumb and finger in front of his forehead. We were humiliating him as we were ratting him out.”

However, Michael said the group’s goal all along was to make sure the teacher didn’t get away with it. “Everybody had their own agenda,” he said, “but it was coming to the same conclusion.”

Michael said many people from the online community were responsible for posts that appeared on several social media sites including Brookwood High School’s Facebook page and other Tuscaloosa-based organizations.  “I was taking what they were doing and putting it together on my own so I could give it to the police,” he said. “They were going to contact everybody. They wanted it out, they were doing the news as it was going out. I was just trying to help get it to the right people.”

Michael said he was successful in contacting law enforcement.  He also said that the people from 4chan did not send out any of the more graphic photos found in the online albums.  He said he’s hopeful that their efforts could have potentially prevented other students from being victimized.

“Nobody had the full story,” he said.  “It was so much more involved than just–oh police got 300 pictures. No. There were 713 photos of them together. This was over the course of a long time, and it was so much funnier how it happened.”  Despite this, Michael said he never took the situation lightly, because he never forgot that a child was involved.

Media sources are not releasing the names or images that are allegedly connected to this investigation.  At this time, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the Tuscaloosa County School System are conducting investigations. No one has been charged with a crime. The employee, however, is not allowed to return to school grounds until the investigations and all other related matters have been resolved.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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