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Westport Students Urged to Watch Words on Web

WESTPORT, Conn. – Be careful of what you post on the Internet — that was the message Stales High School Principal John Dodig had for students Friday. He was responding to a public Facebook support group students launched for Michael Pickering, the assistant freshmen football coach accused of supplying students with a password to a pornographic website.

On the "Free Pick" Facebook group page , many students left comments supporting Pickering, 40, who turned himself in to Westport police Thursday afternoon. Many others, however, expressed outrage over his arrest, used profanity, threatened the student who "snitched" on Pickering, and even talked about masturbation and their own use of pornography.

"Some of you, years from now, will find that these posts will come back to haunt you and could prevent you from getting the job you really want," Dodig told students Friday in an announcement over the school's public address system and sent by email to parents.

"There seems to be a theme developing which is to find the people who brought this situation to light and do them harm. For those of you who have read 'The Crucible' in your English class, you know what a witch hunt that can turn into. That is what I am afraid is beginning to happen."

Pickering, of Norwalk, was charged with three counts of risk of injury to a minor and has been suspended from his positions at Staples, where he worked in the maintenance department and also coached freshmen lacrosse. He is scheduled for arraignment at Norwalk Superior Court on Nov. 28.

Although Dodig called the entire situation "unfortunate," he said the school community should be coming together. "When times are tough, a group of people or a family can either come together, be strong, and make something positive out of it or splinter and start picking each other off one by one," Dodig said. "Is that what we want for this Staples community? I don't think so. It is not what I love about this school."

He also reminded students that, despite their feelings for Pickering, he is an adult who made a "very poor decision that also is illegal."

"It is no different than if an adult bought a bottle of beer for a teenager. Whatever you think of beer, it is illegal to give alcohol to a minor," he said. "This man's life has now been altered forever by his doing and no one else."

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