A Minnesota teenager basically has her college education paid for after her school district agreed to pay her $70,000 after pressuring her to turn over her Facebook and email passwords several years ago.
Riley Stratton, 15, partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to file suit against her school district in 2012, claiming that they had violated her constitutional rights. She was given a detention after posting negative comments about a teacher’s aide on her Facebook account (while at home and not with school property).
School administrators apparently made the then-sixth grader turn over her Facebook account password, explaining that they were concerned that she and another student were talking about sex online.
ACLU attorney Wallace Hilke argued that unless online conversations constitute cyberbullying or a threat to school activities, a student’s social media use is none of their business.
“They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years — complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators,” Hilke said. “She wasn’t spreading lies or inciting them to engage in bad behavior; she was just expressing her personal feelings.”
Riley’s mother said that school officials “interrogated” her daughter without her knowledge, sat her down in a room, and demanded her social media account info. Embarrassed, Riley ultimately turned them over. While the school apparently had permission from a parent to access Riley’s cellphone, there was no parental release form on record (now, that’s a hard-and-fast policy at the school).
The settlement of $70,000 will be divided between the Stratton family, damages, and the ACLU of Minnesota, reports Fox News.
The ACLU has made a habit lately of defending teenagers and their constitutional right to freedom of expression online. In February, they got high school student (and minor YouTube celeb) Nick Barbieri out of a suspension for telling school officials to “f*** off” from his personal Twitter account. Though Barbieri apologized and removed the tweet, the school suspended him anyway.