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MDE finds Loyd Star case lacked evidence — assistant principal said his Twitter account had been hacked

The Mississippi Department of Education has determined there was not enough evidence to rule a former Loyd Star assistant principal had violated the agency’s code of ethics when a Twitter account he was responsible for “liked” pornographic images.

Billy Vaughn was placed on paid administrative leave by Lincoln County Superintendent of Education Mickey Myers Feb. 3 through 21. Vaughn submitted his written intention to retire to Myers Feb. 22. That came on the heels of accusations by parents that  an unofficial Twitter account he created in 2012 had “liked” pornographic posts, which allowed the images and videos to be viewed by the parents’ teenage daughter and others who looked at the “Loyd Star Act./Ath” Twitter feed. The Twitter account was a source for sports scores and school news. It was deleted soon after.

Jean Cook, a communications specialist with MDE, wrote The Daily Leader an email Oct. 20, stating that “MDE has received a complaint about BV from the district. We determined there was insufficient evidence for a Standard Four violations so we closed the case.”

Cook said Oct. 23 that the incident was reported to MDE Feb. 8 and the investigation “closed shortly thereafter.”

According to Vaughn, Myers sent him a text message July 17 letting him know that MDE had closed the case: “Official word from James Thompson from MDE…the possible ethics violations case involving Billy Vaughn has been closed.”

“They do not put this in writing unless there was an issue and they have to pursue it further,” Vaughn said in a message to The Daily Leader Sept. 28.

Standard Four concerns educator and student relationships. The code says an educator should always maintain a professional relationship with all students, both in and outside the classroom.

Vaughn does not know why it took MDE so long to let the superintendent know the outcome of its investigation. MDE would not comment other than to say the investigation was closed.

“I did not communicate with MDE in any part of the investigation. I do not know why Mr. Myers was not notified until July 17. I decided to contact the newspaper for print Sept. 28 after hearing the rumors that I was fired, which clearly I was not,” Vaughn said Monday.

Myers said in February that documents have been submitted to MDE and to an information technology forensics network for verification.

The pornographic posts were dated in 2014, 2015 and 2016. During those years, Vaughn served as assistant principal and also athletic director and PE instructor.

“As you may be aware, some inappropriate posts appeared on a Twitter page that I created to provide Loyd Star sports and activity updates to the community,” Vaughn wrote in the letter announcing his retirement in February. “I can assure you that I did not cause these posts to appear on the page and that I did not ‘like’ the posts. I have been and remain in contact with Twitter and an IT professional in an effort to ascertain the source of the offensive material. Although the details and circumstances are consistent with cases of Twitter hacks, we have not yet definitely determined the source.

“I am persevering with my effort to determine whether the offensive posts were the result of a hack or some other unauthorized access to my Twitter account; however, in an effort to do what is in the best interest of the school district and Loyd Star, I have decided to retire.”

Vaughn said in February that he was sensitive to the concerns of those who were uncomfortable with him remaining in his position at the school.

“That is a consequence that I accept for not doing a better job of maintaining the security of my Twitter account,” he said.

Myers said the district did not pursue the investigation into possible hacks of the account after Vaughn retired.

Billy Vaughn