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Superintendent Simon tweets “Talk to me” then blocks parents who respond

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

On Wednesday, Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon tweeted, “Talk to me again about mental health for our children. Please be as passionate about children in mass shootings as you have been about children wearing a piece of cloth over their nose and mouth.”

Some local parents took her up on the invitation and were quickly blocked on Twitter, which means they are now unable to see her tweets.

A local parent asked her to talk to them about denying mask exemptions that were written by mental health providers. @durandhunter wrote, “Talk to me about how you denied mental health patient/provider privilege with licensed mental health providers regarding a child’s mental wellbeing and needing exemptions from your mandates.”

This parent lives in Alachua County and has school-aged children. @durandhunter and four other local parents who didn’t want to be included in the article sent us screenshots showing that they were blocked by Simon after posting a reply to the tweet above.

@LaurenDthatsme, another local parent, wrote, “Who are you consulting about the mental health of our children? Perhaps the better question is, ARE you?” She was also blocked after posting that.

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Local parent Tayari Appiah didn’t post a reply but liked some of the tweets. He is now blocked, too.

By late afternoon on Thursday, Simon had deleted the tweet.

Dr. Simon sent the following statement to the Alachua Chronicle: “I block individuals that I do not want to engage with on my personal Twitter page for various reasons. I’ve blocked several times over the years I’ve been using Twitter, as many others do. With the anonymity of Twitter Handles I would not know if someone is local or not… or even real (bot).  If I blocked a local parent it would have been based on my decision to not engage with that individual. We all have different expectations and standards for how we choose to interact with others on social media. I believe healthy boundaries are extremely important, this includes social media as well.”

Several factors go into the determination of whether it’s legal for a public official to block other accounts on social media. A lawsuit against State Representative Chuck Clemons on similar grounds was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff recently; Clemons argued that the account was a personal account, not his official State Representative account. An article from the ACLU says that courts look at “a variety of factors to determine if a social media account is used for governmental business and therefore must be open to the public.” Simon could argue similarly that this is her personal account, since she has had the account since 2013, well before becoming Superintendent, but the banner image on her account is a picture of the Alachua County Public Schools administration building, and the first statement in her bio says she is “Superintendent of @AlachuaSchools.”

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