Teacher Suspended After Being Caught In Facebook Baby Hoax
When Victoria Jones ended her 16-month relationship with Daniel Barberini, she took a particularly vicious, and elaborate, form of revenge, grabbing 82 photos of a friend's newborn girl from Facebook, and telling Barberini that he was the proud father. Two years later, the gig is up. Jones may not have broken any laws, but she's been suspended from teaching for two years.
Jones, 23, told Barberini, 26, that she had given birth to twins in New York, before emigrating from Britain to Newport, New South Wales, Australia. The boy, Harrison, was born with Down's Syndrome, she said, and died. But Keira was very much alive, and she had the photos of her first birthday and Christmas to prove it. The little girl was mute, however, she told Barberini. In one email she said that a psychologist observed Keira often looking to one side, as if aware that her twin was missing.
One day, Barberini showed the pictures to a friend, a friend who also happened to be friend of the baby's mother, Sarah Jensen. That baby looked familiar.
After discovering that her child had been co-opted in a cruel game, Jensen called the police. She was baffled. After all, Jones was just a Facebook friend, not a real friend, an old schoolmate she hadn't spoken to for six years, who she described as "one of the quietest people you could ever meet."
Perhaps the greatest victim of the whole ordeal is Barberini, who now feels like he's been robbed of his child. "I was so proud of my little girl and to lose her like that was just horrendous," he said.
Jones hadn't broken any laws, and her behavior, while a little twisted, was conducted in her private life. Still, when a letter with the news was sent out to parents at Ringland Primary School, where Jones works in the nursery, many were alarmed. Some thought it wasn't relevant to her job, while other parents threatened to remove their children from the school. Most, however, relaxed when they learned that photos of their own children hadn't been involved."I take my hat off to those parents," said the school's head teacher, Lisa Bowden. "They were just focusing on the facts and when they knew their children's photos had not been used that calmed the situation down a lot."
Jones called in sick the day the news first broke in February last year, and resigned in early April. The General Teaching Council for Wales, a disciplinary panel, accused Jones of compromising her position of trust as a teacher, bringing the school into disrepute, and engaging in professional misconduct.
Jones denied the charges. Colin Adkins, Jones' representative from the National Association of Schoolmasters / Union of Women Teachers claimed that her client was simply profoundly depressed and emotional after her break-up.
The disciplinary panel reached its decision today, ultimately clearing Jones of the first two allegations, but finding her guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. The chairman concluded: "Although acts were conducted in her private life, the consequences impacted adversely in her standing as a teacher as well as bringing the profession into disrepute." She has been banned from working in classrooms for two years.
Jones is a woman who tangled herself in "an elaborate web of deceit," in the words of the panel, possibly never imagining it would reach the extent it did, and probably never considering it could derail her career.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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