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.
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