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Minnesota Teen Wins Settlement After School Takes Facebook Password 367

Posted by timothy
from the mandatory-everything dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes "A Minnesota school district has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a lawsuit that claimed school officials violated a student's constitutional rights by viewing her Facebook and email accounts without permission. The lawsuit, filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, alleged that Riley Stratton, now 15, was given detention after posting disparaging comments about a teacher's aide on her Facebook page, even though she was at home and not using school computers. After a parent complained about the Facebook chat, the school called her in and demanded her password. With a sheriff deputy looking on, she complied, and they browsed her Facebook page in front of her, according to the report. 'It was believed the parent had given permission to look at her cellphone,' Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt said Tuesday. But Schmidt said the district did not have a signed consent from the parent. That is now a policy requirement, he said.'" Asks schwit1, "How is this not a violation of the CFAA?" It sounds like the school was violating Facebook's Terms of Service, too.
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Minnesota Teen Wins Settlement After School Takes Facebook Password

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:45AM (#46592673)

    "The summary said she gave them her password. That sounds like permission."

    Authority figures pressuring a child constitutes duress, and consent given under duress isn't actually consent.

    "The bigger problem here though is that the student actually thought that what she posted on facebook was somehow actually private."

    No, the problems, in descending order of importance, are:

    1. That this authority figure thought it was okay to do this.
    2. That you don't recognize that that's the bigger problem.
    And somewhere way, WAY down the list, the fact that a child did something naively.

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:49AM (#46592713) Journal

    The summary said she gave them her password. That sounds like permission.

    No, she refused. Then they called the cops. The police officer and administrator together threatened her, and eventually (in tears) she gave in. Note the age of the child.

    As she was not even a teenager at the time, that looks to me like very strong compulsion from authority figures. A normal pre-teen is not going to say "you cannot do this, it violates my rights, let me talk to my parents and a lawyer." Under this kind of pressure they'll believe the officer will throw her in jail forever, and break down.

    For the measly $70K, I think I might have continued fighting it through to an actual judgement. That won't even begin to cover their costs to date, nor will it cover the costs of home-schooling for six years. In addition to suing the district, I'd be suing the school administrator personally, and be suing the officer personally for criminal acts done under color of law.

  • They WERE... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:22AM (#46593011) Journal

    ... apparently people are still using Facebook.

    Well, they were two years ago. From TFA:

    Riley was 13, in sixth grade, when she posted on Facebook two years ago that she hated a school hall monitor because she was mean.

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