Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teen wins $70,000 after being forced to hand over Facebook password to school officials

MailOnline News
Lydia Warren
26 March 2014

  • Riley Stratton was just 13 when she wrote online that she disliked a teacher's aide for being mean - and she was suspended from school
  • A parent then told the school Riley had an online conversation of a sexual nature with her son and the school demanded her password
  • She gave it to them and was humiliated as they looked through her messages; her mother had not given her consent
  • Her attorney argued that administrators should not be in charge of dealing with what students write out of school
  • She dropped out of the school and is now being home schooled

A teenager who was forced to hand over her Facebook password by school officials so they could check her private messages has been awarded $70,000 in damages.
Riley Stratton, now 15, was just a sixth grader in Minnewaska, Minnesota when she gave staff the sign-in details - an incident that left her so distraught that she is now being home schooled.
Minnewaska Area Schools have agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and rewrite its policies after a lawsuit claimed officials violated Riley's constitutional rights by viewing her online accounts.
Riley was just 13 when she posted to Facebook two years ago that she hated a school hall monitor because she was mean, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The school was alerted and she was given an in-school suspension for what she had said, even though the comments were made out of school time.
Afterwards, she went on Facebook and asked who had told on her - a move that could have been seen as threatening to students, school officials argues.
'I was a little mad at whoever turned me in 'cause it was outside school when it happened,' Riley told the Star Tribune on Tuesday.
Her attorney, Wallace Hilke, who took the case pro bono with the American Civil Liberties Union, said she had been punished for doing what school students had been doing for generations.
'She wasn't spreading lies or inciting them to engage in bad behavior, she was just expressing her personal feelings,' he said.
Following that incident, she was hauled before school officials again after a parent complained that Riley had engaged in a conversation of a sexual nature online with her son.

I was in tears,' she said. 'I was embarrassed when they made me give over my password.'As a deputy sheriff looked on, school officials looked through her Facebook page.
Her mother, Sandra Stratton, said the school had called her about the complaint but that she had not been told that her daughter was expected to hand over her password.
'It was believed the parent had given permission to look at her cellphone,' Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt said.
But Schmidt said the district did not have a signed consent from the parent, which is now a policy requirement, he said.
After the incident, Stratton fell behind on schoolwork because she was too distraught and embarrassed to attend school, according to the lawsuit.
The new rules state that electronic records and passwords created off-campus can only be searched if there is a reasonable suspicion they will uncover violations of school rules, the Star Tribune reported.
Schmidt, who was not superintendent at the time of the incident, said that they wanted to make children aware that their actions outside school can harm them.
'The school's intent wasn’t to be mean or bully this student, but to really remedy someone getting off track a little,' he said.
Stratton released a statement about the settlement decision, saying: '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.
'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.'

Read posted article HERE.

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