Twitter account referencing Sewickley area students shut down after inappropriate posts

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

A Twitter account responsible for a number of inappropriate posts about Sewickley Academy and other area students has been closed.

Fifty tweets dating back to July 27 from an unknown author using the @SewickleyGossip account were erased before 8:30 a.m. last Friday following an announcement by Sewickley Academy Head of School Kolia O'Connor to senior school students during a morning meeting.

By 10 a.m. Friday, the account had been deactivated.

Some of the tweets were posted about various students' private lives. One tweet stated the account holder had received a nude photo of a minor on his or her cell phone.

Mandi Semple, director of community and media relations at the academy, said the senior school was alerted to the account several weeks ago.

“The senior school had been monitoring the Twitter activity for about a month and handling the issue within the senior school. Once it became more serious with one of the last posts about the photo of the girl, that is when the school took action with the authorities because the post posed the threat of breaking the law,” she said.

In Pennsylvania, sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit content pertaining to a minor, is illegal. Offenders could face child pornography charges and have to register as a sex offender.

“Our most important goal is to protect kids,” O'Connor said.

In an email sent last Friday morning to all faculty, staff and parents of Sewickley Academy students, O'Connor said local police, FBI and the Allegheny County Department of Child Protective Services were notified of the situation.

“The individual posting these tweets, who may or may not be a member of our community, has nevertheless clearly violated our Community of Respect and Core Values, and a recent post suggests that this individual has also broken the law,” the email stated.

“While Sewickley Academy is a school that understands that children can sometimes make mistakes, even serious ones, we cannot accept when students violate the laws of the land, and we always reserve the right to refer matters to the authorities as we have in this case.”

Tina Vojtko, director of communications and development at Quaker Valley, said the district also reported the account to local law enforcement after they were made aware of it following an anonymous tip to their hotline a few weeks ago. While they don't have a social media policy, Vojtko said the postings fall under bullying and harassment and violate the high school code of conduct, particularly if school-issued computers were used to create the tweets.

Semple said the account violates Sewickley Academy's social media policy that every student, faculty and staff member must abide by whether they are posting from a location on or off campus. If an academy student is behind the tweets, Semple said he or she will face disciplinary action.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or

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