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North Carolina Student Suspended for Facebook Comment Criticizing College

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A Malaysian professional writes her password to enter Facebook for social networking in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 31, 2010. (credit: SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A Malaysian professional writes her password to enter Facebook for social networking in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 31, 2010. (credit: SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

HICKORY, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) — Marketing student Marc Bechtol learned from Catawba Valley Community College that what you say can come back to haunt you.

The school suspended Bechtol on Oct. 4 for two semesters and banned him from campus in response to a comment he made about the school on Facebook.

The incident started when Bechtol was forced to sign up with the college’s debit card service through Higher One bank in order to access his grant money. In the process of signing up, he was reportedly asked for personal information, such as his Social Security number and his date of birth.

Not long after he signed up, he allegedly began to receive unwelcome spam email from various credit card companies.

According to the website for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Bechtol wrote a post on the college’s Facebook page on Sept. 28 about the incident.

“Did anyone else get a bunch of credit card spam in their CVCC inbox today? So, did CVCC sell our names to banks, or did Higher One? I think we should register CVCC’s address with every porn site known to man. Anyone know any good viruses to send them?” it read.

“OK (sic), maybe that would be a slight overreaction,” Bechtol wrote under his own post moments later.

In response, the college sent a letter to Bechtol stating that, in light of his comments, he will receive a two-semester suspension and was prohibited from being on the school’s campus.

“The content of the post is disturbing and indicates possible malicious action against the college,” the letter, found on FIRE’s website, states.

Robert Shibley, senior vice president of FIRE, tells CBS Charlotte that the school’s reaction is both extreme, given the satirical nature of Bechtol’s initial post, and impractical, as he was reportedly suspended and banned from campus without warning.

“The school has some explaining to do as to why (they) are so sensitive to what was honestly not a particularly harsh criticism,” he added. “He is owed at least notice and a hearing before taking actions like this that could be adverse to frankly his life and career. It’s indefensible.”

The school has allegedly told Bechtol that he could return to the school, though according to Shibley, he was not formally notified in writing.

“We know he was told, I believe, yesterday that he could come back to class, (but) he hasn’t been told that he wasn’t suspended or his punishment was revoked,” he said. “(Bechtol) is planning to go back, but … the last thing I knew he hasn’t received anything in writing.”

 The college’s community relations office tells CBS Charlotte that “CVCC is involved in Mr. Bechtol’s due process and cannot comment at this time.”

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