MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota teenager, who initially got in trouble for a Facebook post, now has $70,000 from her school.

In 2011, sixth grader Riley Stratton wrote on her Facebook page that she hated her teacher’s aide at a Minnewaska school.

According to a complaint, Stratton was forced to turn over her email and Facebook passwords to administrators.

Wally Hilke with Lindquist & Vennum took on Stratton’s case pro bono.

“Riley’s really a hero to me, it’s really quite a brave thing she’s done,” Hilke said, “It was very upsetting to her. And, you know, for days she couldn’t return to school, and she lost a tremendous amount of trust in adults through this process.”

Stratton says her parents didn’t know she was forced to turn over her passwords. The district insists they did ask her parent’s permission, but still agreed to pay $70,000 in a settlement.

“The takeaway is that parents should be policing their kids’ social media when they’re off campus,” he said. “School administrators shouldn’t be policing kids’ social media use.”

Greg Schmidt, the new superintendent of Minnewaska schools, says it was never his district’s intention to put Stratton’s family “at extreme disadvantage.”

“[We’ll] be certainly much more cautious about punishing people for things they say off-campus outside of school time,” Schmidt said.

Hilke is hoping schools around the country will follow suit. He says kids can say what they want online while outside of school if it’s not disruptive.

“Educators can still be involved in the lives of young people, they can look out for the interests of young people,” Hilke said. “They just can’t punish them for exercising their constitutional rights.”

Stratton released a statement about the settlement decision.

“I am so happy that my case is finally over, and that my school changed its rules so what happened to me doesn’t happen to other students,” Stratton said. “It was so embarrassing and hard on me to go through, but I hope that schools all over see what happened and don’t punish other students the way I was punished.”

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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