Teenager Sues School Over Facebook Privacy Issue

    March 12, 2012
    Lee Hester
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A twelve-year-old Minnesota teenager is being punished by teachers at her Minnewaska Area Middle School for criticizing a Hall Monitor for “being mean” to her and for talking about sex with another student on her Facebook page. All of the teenager’s comments were made on her home computer and while she was at home. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the mother of the child have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on the teen’s behalf that her rights to protect her freedom of speech and freedom from illegal searches (First and Fourth Ammendments) were violated.

After finding out about the posts on the social networking site, school officials called the teenager out of class, interrogated and intimidated her including forcing the young girl to give them her Facebook login and password. The teenager was detained in a small room at the school and was reportedly scared and humiliated when school officials and a Sheriff’s Deputy read her private postings. According to legal papers filed by the ACLU, the mother of the teenager did not give permission for the school or Sheriff’s office to view her daughter’s Facebook page or postings.

The case exemplifies the growing concern in America that a person should have the right and ability to keep their private communications (including online accounts and e-mail information) private from schools, employers and the government. The lawsuit seeks an order that would keep school officials from regulating or disciplining students based on speech made outside of school hours and off school property and unspecified damages.

Hope this does not happen to my kids. ACLU sues Minnewaska schools over student Facebook incidents, http://t.co/TNFdLy67(image) 2 days ago via Tweet Button ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

“The district is confident that once all the facts come to light, the district’s conduct will be found to be reasonable and appropriate,” said a Minnewaska School District spokesperson. Principal, Pat Falk said the teenager’s comments were “bullying.” The Principal gave the girl detention and told her to apologize to everyone involved. The next day the teenager made another posting on her Facebook page and used profanity regarding the person who had reported her. It was after this incident that school officials took the action that the ACLU, the girl and her mother believe has violated her rights. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. I can’t help but wonder if School Officials don’t have better and more important things to do than reprimand students for their Facebook activities occurring after school and off school grounds. I think we should leave the online monitoring and any groundings to the parents.

  • William P. McMillen

    E-mail sent to Mr Gregory Ohl by William P. McMillen, Delmar, NY

    Dear Mr. Ohl:

    I certainly do not know all the facts based upon the news stories; but if the issue did not involve school security and student safety, then you or your staff are well off base in pressuring a student to surrender her password. Calling the police to inflate pressuring to intimidation is even worse. Student bullying is a big problem; and we wonder where it comes from. It comes from the adults and the actions that adults take. Was the action in anyway related to her online criticism of a hall monitor or some similar related venting? Would you advocate that students cease communicating with each other or be equipped with a monitoring devise to enable you to listen in on all that is said and prohibit whispering? I ask you, sir, to give some thought as to the long term lesson that your school’s policy promotes. Intimidation is acceptable if you have the power to do it..

    Unless, the news story as I understand it is completely one-sided, and I do mean completely one-sided. I would suggest that you make a public announcement that upon review, the policy is not consistent with the values of this nation, the values of the community and will moving forward not be used in future with the possible exception and only after careful deliberation in cases that pertain to school security and student safety. Such an announcement should be made before the entire student body in your school auditorium. Such an announcement and an apology might even change the on-line buzz of the students at the school, and you and the entire administration will be looked up to instead of feared and disrespected.


    William P. McMillen
    Delmar, New York

    I am 68 years old, a retired accountant, and grew up in this community and as a member of my class reunion committee; had the pleasure of making, on behalf of the class, cash contributions to the guidance department and garden club from the profits we made from our 50th class reunion.