ACLU Sues Minnewaksa Schools In Facebook Incidents

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union sued Minnewaska Area Schools and Pope County officials Tuesday, claiming they violated a middle school student’s constitutional rights in two incidents involving Facebook.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the ACLU of Minnesota claimed the school disciplined a 12-year-old after she posted “a typical young girl’s comment that she ‘hated’ a school hall monitor who had been ‘mean’ to her.”

According to the lawsuit, school principal Pat Falk said the comment constituted bullying, and the girl was given detention and told to apologize. She was at home when she posted the comment and did not use a school computer, the ACLU of Minnesota said.

The girl was disciplined again when she posted another comment, in which she cursed because someone reported her. The ACLU claimed the discipline violated the girl’s right to free speech.

In a second incident, the ACLU claimed school administrators forced the girl to give them login information to her Facebook and email accounts after a boy’s mother complained that her son and the girl were using computers to talk about sex.

The ACLU claimed a sheriff’s deputy was present at the time, but there was no warrant. The group claimed this violated the girl’s right to privacy and right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

“She was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while school administrators were scouring her private communications,” attorney Wally Hilke said in a statement. “These adults traumatized this minor without any regard for her rights.”

The girl’s mother filed the lawsuit on her daughter’s behalf.

It claims the girl, known only as R.S., fell behind on schoolwork because she was too distraught and embarrassed to attend school.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an order that would restrain school officials from attempts to regulate or discipline students based on speech made outside of school hours and off school property.

School Superintendent Greg Ohl said the district had not yet been served with the lawsuit and he withheld comment until he had more information.

“We’re taken aback by it,” he said.

The county attorney did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Perry

    I thought children didn’t have rights?

  • Jason

    Only what the school board gives them.

  • Clem H

    I think once you post something in cyber space, you then made it public. They probably shouldn’t have forced her to give them log-in info. If a kid posts about gunning down fellow students at school, should that be ignored? I don’t think so. I’m not a fan of ACLU but there does have to be clarification. The ACLU loses this one.

  • Reality

    Funny I just read an article yesterday, about the ACLU going after a prison out in Maryland that was forcing employees that applied for jobs full access to their Facebook. There was another company in Maryland that was forcing people to friend someone. I have also read about a company that gives out Facebook scores so potentially hiring managers can use it against you. So basically the answer is to have nothing to do with Facebook and to live your life in privacy.

  • Paul Solinger

    Welcome to 21st Century Parenting. You child gets in trouble at school, file a lawsuit.

  • Pope Cty

    The school had no business forcing the child to give them access to her email. In this case, not only were the child’s rights violated, but the parent’s as well. Once again, this district is demonstrating its lack of regard for parents’ responsibilities and rights. And getting involved because a student says that she hates someone?! As if that were an illegal act? Heavy-handed political correctness. She is more likely the victim of bullying than a bully. The school could exercise better judgment! It will unfortunately take this lawsuit to get the district to wake up.

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    […] the ACLU is suing Minnewaska Area Schools and Pope County officials over a claim that they violated a middle school student’s right to free speech when […]

  • WhatdIdo

    Hang that kid high.
    Strike 1- she’s stupid enough to have a Dorkbook profile.
    Strike 2- she stupid enough to attack someone on Dorkbook
    Strike 3- This will be on Dorkbook for the rest of her life so she is now unemployable cause all future schools and employers will see that post.
    Her life is over.

  • Attended Minnewaska

    The Sheriff’s Deputy that was there is someone who always is present at this school. The fact that he was there should not justify the need for a warrant, he was just there as he is every other day.
    But what they did is still very wrong, if they are going to be intimidating her, her parents should be present. Since when is saying “I hate” considered bullying? I was a victim of bullying all though my high school life, that is not bullying.
    They have invaded her privacy and her freedom of speech. The school should not be allowed to regulate what is posted on Facebook, however, they should be able to take some sort of action if a threat has been made ie. A student saying he is going to bring a gun in, they should be able to confront someone on an issue like that, but not the current issue.

  • Yellow medicine CTY parent

    I believe the school is at fault here and really dropped the ball on this situation. First of all this wasn’t posted on facebook during school hours. It is not a crime to “hate” someone that is mean to you. It is also not a crime to talk about sex with a boy. The school should have notified the parents involved and let them decide what to do about the situation. The school had no right to BULLY or INTIMIDATE this young girl into giving them access to her personal email or facebook. I could see it if she had threatened to hurt someone or hurt herself and if that was the case then the police and social service people should have handled it. The trauma this child will live with over this situation will take a long time to heal. If it is a crime to express our opinions then we will all be in trouble. I do have to agree though that pacebook should not be used as a personal diary and if you are dumb enough to bash people and gossip on there then you get what you deserve from the people that don’t like it. Should it stop you from getting a job or getting into school…….I don’t believe as a boss I would let any facebook comments stop me from hiring a good reliable worker…..but if they were a jerk on the job I would send them packing!!

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