Where is the line drawn between privacy and public safety??
A 12-year-old Minnesota girl was reduced to tears while school officials and a police officer rummaged through her private Facebook postings after forcing her to surrender her password, an ACLU lawsuit alleges.
The claims are the latest in a string of tales showing that even password-protected, private online activities might not be safe from curious government agencies and schools.
The girl, whose identity is withheld in the lawsuit, came home “crying, depressed, angry, scared and embarrassed” after she was intimidated into divulging her login information by a school counselor and a deputy sheriff, who arrived in uniform, armed with a Taser, the lawsuit alleges.
“(The student now) fears that the school could make her give up her passwords at a moment’s notice, at any time, for any reason,” the lawsuit claims. It also alleges that password prying is standard practice at the Minnewaska Middle School, which the student still attends. “(Officials) have compelled other students to disclose their private information and have accessed students’ online accounts on multiple occasions,” it states.
The school maintains that they are innocent of any wrong-doing, but the ACLU doesn’t see it that way at all.
According to the ACLU’s version of events, the girl had moved and entered a new school as a 6th-grade student in the fall of 2010. In early 2011, she felt targeted by a school monitor and posted an update to her friends-only Facebook wall saying she “hated” the monitor because “she was mean to me,” using her own computer and while off campus.
Soon after, she was called into the principal’s office — he had obtained a screen shot of the post — and given detention.
The student subsequently posted another update to her page related to the incident: “I want to know who the f%$# told on me,” the complaint says. Again, she was called to the principal’s office, and this time was suspended for “insubordination” and banned from a class ski trip.
In March, the student had a second run-in with school authorities. The parent of another student had complained that the girl was talking about sex with that student. The 12-year-old was called out of class by a school counselor and eventually brought into a room with several school officials and the sheriff’s deputy, where the password demands began.
The ACLU claims that the school never asked the girl’s parents for permission to examine her private Facebook space. The school district doesn’t dispute that it obtained the girl’s password, but does say it had parental permission.
What say you? Does the school have any right to delve into students personal business?
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