March 13, 2012
ACLU, 12-Year Old Sue Minnesota School Over Facebook Incident
In order to gain access to comments a 12-year old student allegedly made on Facebook, a school in Minnewaska, Minnesota ordered the student to reveal her username and password for the social networking site. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of the student against the Minnewaska Area Schools and Pope County, claiming administrators "violated a middle school student's constitutional rights in two incidents involving Facebook."
Facebook comments in question include comments that a school hall monitor had been "mean" to the 12-year old, known as R.S. and that the student "hated" the hall monitor. After discovering the comments, staff at the Minnewaska Middle School issued detention and told the student to apologize. The school principal claimed the comments constituted bullying.
A second incident occurred when another student's mother claimed her son and R.S. used computers to talk about sex. To investigate the complaint the school "forced R.S. to give them login information to her Facebook and email accounts," according to a statement on the ACLU website. The sheriff's deputy was present at the time, though no warrant was issued.
The ACLU claims these actions violated the student's right to privacy and right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
"She was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while school administrators were scouring her private communications, attorney Wally Hilke said in a statement. "These adults traumatized this minor without any regard for her rights."
The ACLU charges the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure were violated over the course of these two incidents.
Rules on Facebook state "In order to be eligible to sign up for Facebook, people must be thirteen (13) years of age or older." Many parents knowingly allow their children to sign up for Facebook before the minimum required age.
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