So I had private meetings with the students who were involved with this situation. Those meetings were pretty amicable and I think I got the point (i.e. don’t play with Facebook during class) across without being indignant about the content. In fact i didn’t even reference the content, although I did mention to the students that I had read it. A couple of days later when we had to spend class time on the computers using Derive, I mentioned again to the entire class that they should be attending to the class task at hand and not, say, messing with Facebook, because after all I do read those Facebook pages.
A couple of days after that, I went to browse through some of these Facebook pages, and I found that I had been blocked from about half of my students’ pages, including the student who wrote the offensive comment.
On the one hand, I’m glad that the students finally figured out that Facebook pages are public and have learned how to take steps to protect their privacy. On the other hand, it makes me even more prone to deride the notion that today’s students are “digital natives” who are really impressed when we “digital immigrants” try to speak their language, e.g. by using Facebook. Unfortunately it appears that a lot of students just want to use Facebook as a means of bitching about things without adult supervision — an impulse which hardly appears to be anything new, much less deserving of an entire paradigm shift in how to educate these folks.