Minnesota girl, 12, sues school, cops, over Facebook privacy

Posted Mar 12, 2012 by Arthur Weinreb
The lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, was brought after a middle school student was forced to give her passwords to her school.
The suit was launched Tuesday by the girl's mother who was aided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The girl, known only as R.S., was required to reveal the passwords to her Facebook and email accounts to her school principal.
R.S. had had a run in with a school hall monitor. She later posted on her Facebook account that she "hates" him because he was "mean" to her. The girl posted the comment when she was at home; it did not involve the use of the school's computers.
The principal, Pat Falk, managed to see the post and determined it was bullying. R.S. was given a detention and was forced to apologize to the monitor.
Needless to say, R.S. was not happy about being given a detention and having to apologize to someone who was mean to her. So she went back to Facebook and cursed the person who brought the initial comment to the principal's attention.
A second incident occurred when a woman complained to the school that her son and R.S. had been using their computers to talk about sex. It was after this occurrence that the girl was forced to reveal her passwords.
At the time she was told to give the principal her passwords, a sheriff's deputy was present and the deputy did not have a warrant to search or seize anything. The Pope County Sheriff's Office is a defendant in the lawsuit, together with the Minnewaska School District.
Attorney Wally Hilke was quoted in the Minnesota Star Tribune as saying, She was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while school administrators were scouring her private conversations. Those adults traumatized this minor without any regards for her rights.
R.S.'s mother did not give permission for her daughter's Facebook and email accounts to be searched.
The suit is being brought on the grounds that the young girl's right to free speech under the First Amendment and her right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment had been violated. Charles Samuelson, the executive director of the ACLU's Minnesota branch, was quoted by CNN saying, Students do not have to shed their First Amendment rights at the school house gate. The Supreme Court ruled on that in the 1970s, yet schools like Minnewaska seem to have no regard for the standard.
As reported by Digital Journal, it is not uncommon for schools and potential employers to demand passwords so they can view whatever the student or job applicant has posted on social media sites.
The school disputes the facts of what is alleged to have taken place and will be defending the action.