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Student, Denied Degree For MySpace Photo, Sues 823

Posted by kdawson
from the striking-back dept.
gwoodrow writes "We've all heard the 'fired because of MySpace' stories, where a simple blog or picture gets someone canned. But now one of the targets is fighting back. (The offending picture in this case was a snap from Halloween 2005 of the student in a pirate outfit drinking from a cup.)" From the article: "Teacher in training Stacy Snyder was denied her education degree on the eve of graduation when Millersville University apparently found pictures on her MySpace page 'promoting underage drinking.' As a result, the 27-year-old mother of two had her teaching certificate withheld and was granted an English degree instead. In response, Snyder has filed a Federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania university asking for her education diploma and certificate along with $75,000 in damages."
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Student, Denied Degree For MySpace Photo, Sues

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  • umm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by otacon (445694) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:04AM (#19034263)
    2005 was 2 years ago, and she's 27 now, that makes her 25 in the photo...how is this underage drinking again?
    • Re:umm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:10AM (#19034305)
      2005 was 2 years ago, and she's 27 now, that makes her 25 in the photo...how is this underage drinking again?

      Wrong. The cup was clearly full of liquid LSD, which is a federal felony.

      I just don't get the human race. It just seems clear that no matter what century it is, there is some kind of witch hunt or persecution of somebody for something. Is there anybody that has read something about this human phenonemon? Is there going to be a time when humans just don't do this kind of thing?

      • Re:umm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by subterfuge (668314) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:14AM (#19034347)
        Is there going to be a time when humans just don't do this kind of thing?

        no

      • Re:umm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:37AM (#19034621) Journal

        I just don't get the human race. It just seems clear that no matter what century it is, there is some kind of witch hunt or persecution of somebody for something. Is there anybody that has read something about this human phenonemon? Is there going to be a time when humans just don't do this kind of thing?

        You already understand that humans are utterly self-centered. Yet many of them have that irresistible desire to control others. It's a paradox, but still frighteningly logical...

        Humans seek to control in others what they wish they could control in themselves.

        They hate it when other people are having more fun than they are.

        And they will cling to their moral rules even after those rules have lost their basis. (Certainly the mutual enforcement of morality is justifiably important in any family, tribe, or society, and certaintly this is an unending chore. But still: moral rules exist to maximize something; they are not divine ends-in-themselves.)

        The current war against birth control illustrates all three phenomena of control:

        1. "I hate my profligate urges, but at least I can feel better about them by cracking down on yours."
        2. "Hey, no fair getting laid twice a week! My husband barely wants me once a month!"
        3. Them: "Promiscuous behavior is immoral because it creates unintentional babies."
          You: "But birth control ends that risk; therefore, there is no longer any basis for condemning promiscuous behavior. Your moral rule is obsolete."
          Them: "Then to protect morality, we must ban birth control."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by got2liv4him (966133)

          The current war against birth control illustrates all three phenomena of control:

          1. "I hate my profligate urges, but at least I can feel better about them by cracking down on yours."
          2. "Hey, no fair getting laid twice a week! My husband barely wants me once a month!"
          3. Them: "Promiscuous behavior is immoral because it creates unintentional babies."
            You: "But birth control ends that risk; therefore, there is no longer any basis for condemning promiscuous behavior. Your moral rule is obsolete."
            Them: "Then to protect morality, we must ban birth control."

          Isn't that what they call a straw man argument... I mean look at number two, you are invoking your opinion on why people believe certain things (it must be that they aren't getting any, so they don't want me to). You have put those with different opinions than you in a box, and then made up there thoughts so you can be better than them... isn't that what your post was complaining about in the first place?

          • Not a straw man (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @09:37AM (#19036613) Homepage
            > Isn't that what they call a straw man argument...

            Nope. It would be a straw man argument if he claimed these were the spoken arguments against birth control. But he doesn't, he speculate that these are the unspoken reasons (at least #1 and #2).

            It does show a total lack of respect for the opponents. Nothing wrong with that. The official spoken arguments for certain positions, such as alien visitors, creationism or the immorality of birth control are utterly insane. Trying to counter them with rational arguments are a total waste of time, as they are not based on rational thinking.

            It is much more productive to try to analyze which emotional needs makes people hold to these irrational positions. Once you understand the true reasoning behind them, you can start working on filling the emotional need the motivates them, and the positions become irrelevant.

            > You have put those with different opinions than you in a box, and then made up there thoughts so
            > you can be better than them... isn't that what your post was complaining about in the first
            > place?

            Nope, he was complaining about people trying to control others behavior. Not about people trying to change others opinions.
          • Re:umm (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Wakko Warner (324) * on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @10:03AM (#19037099) Homepage Journal
            You have put those with different opinions than you in a box, and then made up there thoughts so you can be better than them... isn't that what your post was complaining about in the first place?

            Is it really that hard to believe that people who hold certain opinions and then attempt to force those beliefs onto others really are shittier people?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Phyvo (876321)
          The fact is, children require sacrifice, and when given the option many people will just avoid sacrificing. This is why in Europe and Japan population is declining, and why, unless a new pro-family and pro-child secular ethos is created, religious people will be the ones keeping society going.

          Now, I'm not saying that birth control is all a bad thing. My parents used birth control (but they still had 3 kids), my sister and her husband are using "natural" birth control (because she's allergic to something, I
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DeadChobi (740395)
        Actually, this kind of excessive force against teachers has been going on for about 200 or so years. For example, back in the late 1800's, women teachers weren't allowed to marry, and male teachers weren't allowed to have their hair cut in a barber shop in Philidelphia. Teachers aren't allowed to have social lives in the public eye. It's a good way to get fired, even though you're not doing anything to harm the students and may be the best teacher they've ever hired. Even after social liberation late last c
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by COMON$ (806135) *
        It is human nature to hate, about 2K years ago an extremist preached this. People just killed him and went on scratching their heads.
    • Re:umm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Johnny5000 (451029) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:14AM (#19034341) Homepage Journal
      2005 was 2 years ago, and she's 27 now, that makes her 25 in the photo...how is this underage drinking again?

      I'm sure they originally thought she was 20 in the picture, and wanted to withhold her teaching certificate for underage drinking. Then when they found out she was 25 in the photo, they changed their story to not wanting anyone who has had alcohol touch their virgin lips to be teaching young children, rather than admitting they were wrong.
      • Re:umm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:35AM (#19034607) Journal
        This whole thing is simply idiotic, it seems obvious someone is out to "get her" and has convinced enough people to start cranking the wheels of "the complaint process". If it's fair game to investigate this womans life then what about the person(s) who put in the complaint, do they have alternative motivations? - Religion, revenge, nappy-wearing-jelousy?

        A system of formal complaints that can screw up your life must be accountable, if formal complaints are to be taken seriously then abuse of the system needs to be puni$hed.
      • Re:umm (Score:5, Funny)

        by pnewhook (788591) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @08:23AM (#19035403)

        I'm sure they originally thought she was 20 in the picture, and wanted to withhold her teaching certificate for underage drinking.

        Well the solution is simple. Adopt a drinking age of 17/18 like here in Canada. She definitely doesn't look 18.

        Then when they found out she was 25 in the photo, they changed their story to not wanting anyone who has had alcohol touch their virgin lips to be teaching young children, rather than admitting they were wrong.

        Alcohol?? Forget the alcohol. Statistically at least half of the female teachers would be performing oral sex on their husbands / boyfriends. And they are worried about alcohol on their lips?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smchris (464899)
        Funny and very likely insightful. I bet she can prove that. Should have upped her damages claim.

        Many years ago I went to an evangelical Lutheran teachers college for two years. Among their many amusing mores: no smoking for women, no drinking anytime, anywhere no matter how old you were, students of the opposite sex could be in your room every other Sunday from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. with your door open, all overnights were signed out, the RA would unlock your door around midnight to see that you were there Frid
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Not to mention that if you read the cup, it's a cup advertising Chocolate. Nothing about beer is mentioned in the picture. Now, I COULD be mistaken, but I'm fairly positive Hersheys Mr Goodbars contain NO alcohol.


      =_= Unless...

      ... this isn't about alcohol at all! Instead, a conservative right-wing conspiracy covering up the left-wing media frenzy over HOT CHOCOLATE!

      • Re:umm (Score:5, Informative)

        by mikael (484) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:48AM (#19034803)
        This is the picture that is actually in dispute [bbsnews.net], described in this news article [bbsnews.net]

        Apparently, Conestoga Valley School District were threatening to not recruit any more teachers from her university, unless she was punished in some way.

        Regardless of the picture, the School District or college have no right to amend her graduation qualifications, based on a single party photograph.
        • Re:umm (Score:4, Funny)

          by eck011219 (851729) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @09:06AM (#19036061)
          Yeah. Not all photos [snopes.com] get you exiled for life, though. In the case of the photo I linked to, it's quite unfortunate.
    • by Knutsi (959723) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:53AM (#19034885)

      It's not encoureaging underage drinking, it's more of a sympthom of a society soaked in paranoia, unrealistic expectations and simplistic views of the world that clash with a modern age where a person's life and living will be more exposed and available.

      So we have two choices now: a.) remove the access to insight into our lives, or restrict it radically, or b.) realise that the people that take care of your children are humans too, with all that entails. There are no saints here. It's not a bad thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:05AM (#19034271)
    No bullshit please, clearly she was denied her degree due to pressure from the RIAA. Dressing as a pirate and so on...

    Arrr.
  • by VE3OGG (1034632) <VE3OGG@@@rac...ca> on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:07AM (#19034275)
    I would like to see the page in question, since "promoting" and "here's a picture of people with a beer" are two very different things (but of course, can be interpreted any way the viewer wishes). Sigh -- MySpace to the rescue of society's morals an ethics again...
  • Well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:09AM (#19034291)
    I for once am sick of this new wave of neo-moralism which is invading the USA, but sadly also Europe. It has gone so long now that there have been students in trouble (and expelled from an university), here in Sweden for just ben caught drinking a beer when they are 17. Can you imagine? A beer can compromise the future of a person... Long gone are the merry days of the hippy culture when things were so uncomplicated...

    But I must be thankful that the new wave of religious moralism has not (yet) arrived here from America... But sadly, I expect it to arrive very soon...

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by braintartare (629755) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:29AM (#19034533)
      It is not neo-moralism as much as it is simple cowardice. People in authority today, more than ever before, are doing the CYA thing regardless of the consequences to those under their authority. This judgement is sad, sick, absurd, wrong. But the people who made the judgement ( withhold her certificate ) thought that this was the safe course of action, that they were protecting themselves from any political fallout. As I suspect we will soon see, they couldn't BE more wrong. /chandler bing
    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheWoozle (984500) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:54AM (#19034901)
      You don't have to be religious to be self-righteous, authoritarian, or just a plain old bastard.
  • by Churla (936633) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:10AM (#19034303)
    "It's OK for a drunken pirate to have a pretty useless degree, but we'll be damned if we're going to enable a drunken pirate to get a low paying stressful thankless job by giving them a certificate!"

    Obviously ninja have infiltrated the schools administrative staff...
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:10AM (#19034307)
    ... and that picture says "Argh, matey, I'm mighty thirsty", but that's about it.

    Perhaps some bored grad students at Millersville University, those who aren't working on OSS projects of course, will snap a few pic's of the University's administrators so others can jump to conclusions about them too.
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cordsie (565171) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:11AM (#19034317)
    When I see clearly absurd stuff like this, I tend to wonder whether there are other aspects to the story that we're not being told about.

    I'm not judging either way, but is it not a possibility that the 'victim' here is screaming loudly about a single innocuous piece of evidence while failing to mention any of the other relevant details or bits of evidence in the 'case'?
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cauchy (61097) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:17AM (#19034397)
      There was more. The school district where she was a student teacher was the impetus behind this. The district told the university that if she was awarded a teaching certificate, the district would stop using student teachers from the university. I'm guessing that the university felt it needed the school district for the broader good of its other teaching students. I'm not saying the university was right to not fight the district to the death, but clearly it was a more rational choice. The school district, however...
      • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bkr1_2k (237627) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @08:28AM (#19035473)
        That allegation has been denied by the school district in question. The article below also mentions that she was reprimanded several times (for the same offense) as a student teacher and that she needed "significant remediation" in several areas of her teaching abilities. There is more to the story, but it's generally being told (at least on slashdot) from a one-sided perspective. Here is another side: http://bbsnews.net/article.php/20070502234811315 [bbsnews.net]
        • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Cauchy (61097) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @09:40AM (#19036653)
          That was actually quite an interesting article. I found the following excerpt particularly enlightening:

          "...One of the concerns that Ms. Snyder's cooperating teacher, Nicole Reinking, expressed to Ms. Snyder throughout the semester was the importance of maintaining a professional working relationship with students and not to become overly familiar with them regarding her personal life. Among other things, Ms. Snyder had been inviting students to log onto her MySpace Web site, and Ms. Reinking counseled her repeatedly to stop doing so."

          If this is the case, perhaps the school district and the university were quite well justified. In this case, the issue wasn't the website or the photo, but her conduct in the classroom and with the students related to the website. One might even say that her conduct was encouraging underage drinking not because she drank or took pictures, but because she in essence said to students, "Look, I'm cool, I get drunk at parties." That's much more nuanced than just the fact that she put the pictures up online since it involves actively promoting the pictures in the classroom.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by niceone (992278) *

      Well the university's response is here: http://www.millersville.edu/announcements/snyder.p hp [millersville.edu]

      They hint at some other problem which they can't go into because of 'federal student privacy restrictions'. I guess you'd expect them to say something like that though.

  • Wow. (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:15AM (#19034359)
    I thought I was the only one who got hammered off those Goodbar shooters. Whew, that's a relief.
  • by edbob (960004) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:16AM (#19034385)
    I looked at the picture. I shows an obviously of-legal-drinking-age adult woman in a pirate hat drinking from a plastic cup with no indication of the contents of said cup. How this promotes underage drinking is beyond my ability to comprehend.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:28AM (#19034523)
      It wasn't that picture in particular, it was just that that picture was the only one safe for work. The others show her obviously intoxicated and doing jello-shots off the chest of a well-endowed naked black man.
    • If the picture is from "Halloween 2005", and she's 27, would she not have been 25 at the time of the photo? How exactly is that promoting "underage" drinking? Am I just really bad at math today, or did they change the drinking age while I wasn't looking?
    • There's not even any clear indication the caption isn't satirical. You can't tell what she's drinking, there are no bottles of liquor anywhere to be seen, and the cup is opaque.
    • Even if she were underage in the photo, and were obviously drinking alcohol, what's that have to do with anything? If you're under the illusion that every teacher in your child's school never touched a drop of alcohol until they were 21, you're deluded, quite dangerously so.
  • Well.. that's what the cup says anyway. No sign of beer or stronger stuff. It's not even hot coffee.

    The only reason I could think of to punish her is for the bad pirate costume, and the fact that the plastic cup is out of character.
  • by techmuse (160085) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:19AM (#19034417)
    Isn't it obvious? People who are underage may only drink from clear, plastic bottles! By using a cup, she was promoting drinking from opaque liquid carrying devices.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:22AM (#19034459) Homepage Journal
    Where our school taxes run deep, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are leeches and our governor is doing his best to increase the New Jerseyfication of the state.

    I've told people for the longest time, any time PA is in the national news, it can't be a good thing.

    Personally, I don't agree with Millersville (not too far from me) since the activity took place away from school and the teacher to be, as far as I know, has never advocated to anyone that getting drunk is a good thing.

    Further, as others have pointed out, how is she promoting underage drinking if a) she was above the legal drinking age at the time the picture was taken and b) we have no idea what was in her cup.

    Besides, if Millersville is going after her because of something she may have done, are they going to rescind degrees from those who have graduated and are later found to be doing something similar or are convicted of other crimes? Say, child molestation, rape or robbery? What if someone posts a picture of themselves in a thong at a party (as a guy) or some skimpy, revealing outfit (for a woman)? Are they going to withhold degrees for that too?
  • by farker haiku (883529) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:27AM (#19034519) Journal
    Looks like a fairly opaque cup to me. Sue the bastards. Then sue the school district for defamation of character. That ought to teach the fundies (and the people who kowtow to them) to mind their own fucking business.
  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:30AM (#19034547)
    The place where you can be:

    (1) Arrested in the hospital for public drunkenness and underage drinking after you are taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning a day before your 21st bday. This actually happened to a friend. I guess that it's far better to let students with alcohol poisoning choke on their own vomit than go to the hospital and risk getting arrested.

    (2) Arrested for felony riot for telling a cop who had just hit a fellow student in the face at a Red Cross benefit show that he'd be better off helping clean up NYC after 9/11 than harrassing students who ARE actually trying to help. This actually happened to me a few weeks after 9/11/2001, and fucked with my life for the next few years (difficult to get a job, probation basically required for me to move out of state).

    In short; to Hell with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the puritanical prigs who seem to run the government and apparently non-governmental organizations as well.

    -b.

  • Pennsylvania (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:34AM (#19034579)
    I am from and live in, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a strange attitude towards alcohol. It is remarkably easy to get a license to serve alcohol yet liquor is a state run enterprise. It is kind of a schizophrenic balance of control and freedom. If only you should have seen the public outcry when the state liquor store was going to have hours on Sunday. I was vaguely amused because many of those in the public outcry, I am sure, went to buy a bottle of wine on Sunday. This girl is going to win her lawsuit, hands down. What Millersville University did was attempt to flex its muscle. In doing so, that attempt just went way too far and will end up generating negative publicity for an otherwise, fine state school. I hope Millersville's administrators are arrogant and blind enough to see this to a public venue. Universities are supposed to be about academic freedom and thought freedom . . .or maybe once upon a time they were. The egregiousness of this is simply shocking.
  • by cnelzie (451984) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:34AM (#19034583) Homepage
    ...the more I understand as to why nobody in Europe wanted those pesky Puritans around and thus kicked them all to the US.

        Sometimes, I really dislike the behavior of some of my fellow Americans.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alsee (515537)
      nobody in Europe wanted those pesky Puritans around and thus kicked them all to the US. Sometimes, I really dislike the behavior of some of my fellow Americans.

      Me too. I find myself more and more wanting to move to Australia. At least they were founded as a penal colony.

      -
  • by Mortanius (225192) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @08:24AM (#19035421) Homepage
    A little more digging turns up some of the finer points of the fight that aren't necessarily reported in the Washington Post article. For example, this article [smh.com.au] from the Sydney Morning Herald states:

    Snyder did her student-teaching at Conestoga Valley High School in 2006.

    Conestoga Valley officials told the college they would stop accepting student-teachers from Millersville if she went unpunished, the lawsuit said.

    Which leads one to believe that the university was being pressured from the district to do something about her and let them save face. Presumably the district feels they're in a position of enough power (taking on most of their students for their student teaching assignments?) that they could do this.

    However, if you look at the response from Conestoga Valley, available on their website here [k12.pa.us], they state that's untrue, and include some more information not linked in the Washington Post article, including what they claim is the offending Myspace blog post which is not the picture hosted by thesmokinggun.com which the WP article links to. It could be a little damning towards her if you believe the district that she was actively encouraging the kids to go to her Myspace page, but then, not knowing what her page is (I would imagine by now it's either been deleted or locked down anyway) it'd be hard to say whether the content therein is really unacceptable for the students to see.

    One quote from their response troubles me to some degree though, from her cooperating teacher, Nicole Reinking:

    One of the concerns that Ms. Snyder's cooperating teacher, Nicole Reinking, expressed to Ms. Snyder throughout the semester was the importance of maintaining a professional working relationship with the students and not to become overly familiar with them regarding her personal life.

    Certainly that can be taken any number of ways, some good, some bad, but taking it simply at face value, it saddens me to see where education has gone these days. Growing up in rural Maine (not that there's really any other kind of Maine :-P) we were all very friendly with our teachers, they would regularly invite our classes to their houses for cookouts and such, we didn't turn out so bad. But that's an entirely different discussion.

    Regardless, in the end I'm a little surprised and frightened that a university feels they have the ability to do this. That after someone has paid them tens of thousands of dollars for their education, and has presumably satisfactorily completed the academic requirements, they can one day before graduation tell you "Yeah, we're not going to give you the degree you wanted, have this English degree instead." What's to keep them from doing that to someone else because they don't like brunettes or people from Alaska? (Don't answer that, I know it's a stupid question. :-P) At the very least, if her performance in the field so to speak was the cause of their decision, say so. Naturally (as would be standard practice at any univeristy, I'd assume) the only mention of it on their website at the moment is a brief aside [millersville.edu] that they can't say anything publicly.
  • by delire (809063) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @08:33AM (#19035547)
    "Class of 2005":

    Carla, Brian and Phil: IP Lawyers [assblaster.free.fr]
    Dental surgeons 'Be' and 'Mole' [flickr.com]
    'Tone-toke': Astrophysicist [m-pi.com]
    Messy Mel: Brain surgeon [pages.at]
    'Liz': Senator [photobucket.com]
    Wufus: Neurologist [fotologs.net]

    Lighten up Millersville, sheesh

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