Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lawsuit: School violates student’s Facebook privacy

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“Privacy” being erased

Here’s another school that needs to be reminded – preferably with a crushing courtroom loss – that the First and Fourth Amendments don’t have any age restrictions that somehow exclude minors:

A Minnesota middle school student, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing her school district over a search of her Facebook and e-mail accounts by school employees.

The 12-year-old sixth grade student, identified in court documents only as R.S., was on two occasions punished for statements she made on her Facebook account, and was also pressured to divulge her password to school officials, the complaint states.

"R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room" as she watched a counselor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.

The lawsuit claims that her First Amendment rights were violated by employees at Minnewaska Area Middle School, in west-central Minnesota, as well as her Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure.

And what are these messages with contents so scurrilous that school officials felt the need to bring in a police officer to assist them in interrogating her?

According to the complaint, R.S. felt that one of the school's adult hall monitors was picking on her, so she wrote on her Facebook "wall" that she hated that person because she was mean.

The message was not posted from school property or using any school equipment or connections, the lawsuit states.

Somehow, the school principal got a hold of a screenshot of the message, and punished R.S. with detention and made her apologize to the hall monitor, the complaint says.

She was in trouble again shortly thereafter for another Facebook post, which asked who turned her in, using an expletive for effect, the lawsuit says. She was given in school suspension and missed a class ski trip.

In the third incident, according to the complaint, R.S. was called in by school officials after the guardian of another student complained that R.S. had had a conversation about sex on Facebook.

Ooh. She complained about alleged bullying. And then about being snitched on. And she even had a private naughty conversation with someone! And all on her own time and computer. Clearly, this is a troublesome case that needs to be handled with severity and humiliation. (And police.)

Or – just a shot in the dark, here – the school administration has its head lodged so deep up its own anal canal that it can’t sense the legal ramifications of its acts barreling down upon it at a hundred miles an hour (never even mind the ethical problems of violating anyone’s privacy, student or otherwise) over the stench of their self-righteousness presumption.

Sadly, this sort of arrogant dismissal of students’ rights is all but omnipresent at schools in general (a sentiment not helped in the least by my own experience), if not also the general population*. One can only hope this lawsuit will make at least some realize that if minors are people, they are therefore covered by the Bill of Rights, regardless of whatever unmerited sense of entitlement any adults in the vicinity may possess.

(via Fark)

* True story: I was once in a forum debate that was rather rudely cut short when a moderator locked the thread with a closing declaration that “students have no rights!”. It makes one wonder just how prevalent this sort of ass-backwards thinking is throughout society at large.