ACLU sues Minnewaska schools after student punished for teacher-bashing Facebook post

Categories: Law
city pages facebook.jpg
Whether Facebook posts are constitutionally protected speech remains a legal gray area.
The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against Minnewaska Area Schools for alleged violations of a 12-year-old female student's constitutional rights.

In one string of incidents, the girl was repeatedly disciplined after posting on Facebook that she "hated" a teacher who had been "mean" to her. She later posted additional comments denouncing an alleged snitch who brought the original comments to the school's attention. In the second incident, school staff, with law enforcement personnel present, forced the girl to give the school her Facebook login information amid allegations she had online conversations with another student about sex.

The online activities in question took place at the girl's home on her personal computer.

After the teacher- and snitch-bashing incidents, the student, who is not named in the lawsuit, was given detention and in-school suspension, was forced to write the teacher an apology, and was banned from a school field trip. In the Facebook password incident, the student was allegedly forced to give up her personal information despite Minnewaska schools not having a search warrant. A sheriff's deputy and two school officials were present at the time.

The ACLU alleges that the first incident violated the girl's First Amendment rights, while the second violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The group is seeking damages and an order prohibiting school personnel from disciplining students based on speech made off-campus, after school hours.

Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for the ACLU in Minnesota, told MPR that the student's free speech rights don't disappear at the schoolhouse door.

"The school is only able to regulate student's speech that is really likely to have a substantial disruption of the educational process. This is miles from meeting that [standard]," she said.

Meanwhile, Minnewaska school officials have refused to talk about the allegations.

Related:
-- Amanda Tatro, still upset about Facebook-post punishment, may appeal to U.S. Supreme Court


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12 comments
M Kay Hankins
M Kay Hankins

I'm actually in trouble for this. I made the argument that I said the remarks in my own personal time and out of the teachers view. However, I made the environment "hostile" when someone anonymous prined them out and showed them to my Principal.

Joe
Joe

Looks like this story has gone national.  Minnewaska might as well save themselves some time and money and just settle now.  They are totally screwed.  Firing the employees involved would probably help too.

Joe W.
Joe W.

I attended this school actually.. what they are doing is wrong.Regardless of Facebook's Terms of Service  on age restriction, the school is still doing wrong by invading privacy, and limiting freedom of speech, "The school is only able to regulate student's speech that is really likely to have a substantial disruption of the educational process. This is miles from meeting that [standard]" .

To straighten one thing out, the sheriff's deputy that was there is the school's "enforcer" he is almost always present in or near the principals office in certain situations.

And demanding that she forfeit her passwords right there with out any parents present to defend her and her rights is absolutely absurd. I don't like seeing lawsuits against schools because they are struggling as it is, but I am sorry this was not the right choice of action for them to pursue.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Would this settlement actually go to the student, or will the greed of the ACLU and their lawyers consume it all?

Hopefully this student doesn't have conservative views.  The left will deny you your First Amendment rights every time, and the ACLU will laugh about it.

Mike W.
Mike W.

Aside from the stupidity of what the school did, especially without at least one of the parents of the child present - am I the only person who is wondering why a 12-year old even needs a Facebook page?  I must be getting old or something......

allen heart
allen heart

The defendants de-educated a student regarding her right of free speech. They undid any teaching, if any, about the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Teachers and schools educate in more than lecture and book. They educate by example. The teachers and staff should be re-educated so that they can teach by example, the most powerful form of education.

Aaron
Aaron

I believe her having a Facebook page is in violation of Facebook's Terms of Service. I believe they require their users to be 13.

A J
A J

You said it all...

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

Which should nullify most of this lawsuit.

Joe
Joe

 Clearly you are not a lawyer because that is total bullshit.

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