According to the Morris Sun Tribune, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) has filed suit against Minnewaska Area School District (MASD) and the Pope County Sheriff’s Office alleging they violated a student’s free speech and privacy rights in two instances related to Facebook.
ACLU-MN’s suit claims that student R.S., while at home, posted a comment on her Facebook page about her dislike of a school staff member. The school learned about the comment, and the student received detention and was ordered to write an apology to the staff member. The student was given an in-school suspension and barred from a school field trip after she cursed on her Facebook page about someone’s reporting her to the school. The suit contends that the punishment violated the student’s First Amendment free speech right.
The second instance occurred when the student was brought into a school administrator’s office, where she was coerced to turn over login information to her Facebook and email accounts, against her will, according to ACLU-MN. A deputy and two school officials were allegedly present. The school officials demanded the login information because of allegations that she had online conversations about sex with another student off-campus. The student was allegedly called a liar and threatened with detention if she did not provide access to her accounts. Her mother was allegedly not informed about the incident, which the suit refers to as a “search,” until after it happened. ACLU-MN claims that R.S.’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated.
Source: Morris Sun Tribune, 3/7/12, By Staff
[Editor's Note: In its press release announcig the suit, ACLU-MN said it is seeking damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief for the violations of R.S.'s constitutional rights. ACLU-MN's Executive Director Charles Samuelson said, "Students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the school house gate. The Supreme Court ruled on that in the 1970s, yet schools like Minnewaska seem to have no regard for the standard." The press release also contains a link to the legal complaint, which raises two federal claims: violation of R.S.'s free speech and Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
In February 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article from the Student Press Law Center reporting that the Indiana bill allowing schools to punish students for off-campus actions had been approved by the state House of Representatives and was sitting in a Senate committee. SPLC updates indicate that, after heavy criticism, an amendment passed through the Indiana Senate throwing out the bill and creating instead a "study commission" to look at best practices in student discipline.
In January 2012, Legal Clips summarized reports from national media outlets on the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in three student Internet speech cases, J.S. v. Blue Mountain Sch. Dist. (combined with Layshock v. Hermitage Sch. Dist.) and Kowalksi v. Berkeley Count Sch. In each of these cases, a student had used offensive language online, after school hours, to berate school administrators or a fellow student. School officials disciplined the student for the behavior, drawing a suit based on First Amendment free speech protection.]