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Judge backs Lake County teacher’s firing over ‘lewd’ TikTok posts

Teacher says account was hacked

FILE - This Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, file photo, shows as  logo of a smartphone app TikTok on a user post on a smartphone screen in Tokyo. Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify said Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, its made a deal with TikTok enabling merchants to create shoppable video ads that drive customers to online stores. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)
FILE - This Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, file photo, shows as logo of a smartphone app TikTok on a user post on a smartphone screen in Tokyo. Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify said Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, its made a deal with TikTok enabling merchants to create shoppable video ads that drive customers to online stores. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

An administrative law judge has backed a decision by the Lake County superintendent of schools to fire a teacher who posted what the judge described as “lewd and offensive material” on the TikTok social-media network.

Judge Robert Telfer III on Friday issued a 26-page order recommending that the Lake County School Board terminate the employment of Todd Erdman, who was a faculty member at Umatilla Middle School.

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Lake County Superintendent Diane Kornegay in October 2019 informed Erdman that she planned to recommend termination to the school board after an investigation of numerous TikTok videos that included Erdman making sexually explicit comments, according to Telfer’s ruling.

“During the summer of 2019, and prior to the start of the school year in August 2019, Mr. Erdman created videos with his smart phone using TikTok. He testified that he created some videos with children’s songs and movies to entertain his kids over summer break. And, he testified that he created some videos with Mrs. Erdman, his wife, which were of a more sexual or adult nature, and that he created some of these videos in the couple’s master bedroom and bathroom,” the ruling read.

Students and parents began reporting the videos to administration on Sept. 5, 2019.

According to the document, Erdman lip synced to audio that was sexual in nature in the TikTok posts.

Erdman appealed Kornegay’s decision to the state Division of Administrative Hearings and said, in part, that he had set his TikTok account to “private” so that videos would not be shared and that someone had stolen his cellphone and hacked his account.

But Telfair concluded that Erdman’s “explanation is not credible” and that he violated a series of rules.

“Further, the TikTok videos … ultimately made their way into the public sphere, and students, parents, and school district personnel viewed and became aware of them,” the judge wrote.