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ACLU Sues School Over Facebook

Claims District Violated Student's Civil Rights

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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Minnewaska, MN Area Schools and various Pope County officials Tuesday, citing that they violated a middle school student’s constitutional rights regarding two Facebook wall posts.

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The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by the ACLU of Minnesota, and claimed the Minneapolis area school in question disciplined a 12-year-old after she’d posted on Facebook that she ‘hated’ a hall monitor that had been ‘mean’ to her. School principal Pat Falk deemed the comments to be bullying, and gave the girl detention and forced her to apologize. The student used a home computer to post the comment, and the girl was disciplined again, after posting another comment – She added some obscenities over being ratted out over a second incident – a fellow student’s mother told the school that her son and the girl were talking about sex online, prompting administrators to force the girl to hand over her Facebook and email passwords.

The ACLU sees the discipline as a violation of free speech rights, and points out that the Sheriff’s Deputy present had no warrant when the school demanded the passwords, which potentially constituted unreasonable search and seizure.

Wally Hilke, attorney for the ACLU has stated that, “she was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while school administrators were scouring her private communications. These adults traumatized this minor without any regard for her rights.”

The lawsuit, filed by the girl’s mother, seeks unspecified damages, along with an order that would keep school officials from meddling with speech made outside of school hours and property. The suit claims that the girl fell behind in school, after becoming too distraught to attend. School Superintendent Greg Ohl claims that the district was “taken aback by it.”

What is up with Minneapolis and Facebook?

ACLU Sues School Over Facebook
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  • http://www.frogdice.com Michael Hartman

    Go ACLU.

    This is indeed a violation of this student’s right to free speech. The posts were made from her home, on Facebook. The school has absolutely no jurisdiction or right to take (state) action against her for her postings.

    • david ratzlaff

      Facebook rights and responsibilities states that you will not use facebook if are not 13. This girl, being 12, has no rights to an account she should’t have to begin with.
      I am not sure about MN law but the school may have more of defese for their actions if she was talking sex with someone because of mandatory reporting laws.

  • Gail

    All it comes down to is a family trying to make money. If the school was wrong, let them apologize and be done with it. Taking money from the school district to give to this family hurts all students. Stop these unnecessary lawsuits. If the girl slammed an employee on Facebook, shouldn’t that employee have the right to sue for defamation of character?

    • Sean

      Seriously? How is writing that you hate someone, defamation of character. It’s not bullying, either. If the school coerced a password from the girl, absent a warrant, they are guilty of violating the first and fifth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
      If they punished her for non-threatening, non-defamatory speech, on her own facebook wall, they violated the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

      That being said, if she was so wronged that it caused her a great deal of suffering and humiliation, she is due a monetary award, at the expense of the individuals, or their proxies, who wronged her. If it places such a hardship on the other students, maybe the people who cost the district so much money, through their un-American behavior, should be fired.

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