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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 Frobnicator (565869) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:39AM (#46592619) Journal

    But what were these these "disparaging" comments exactly?

    Probably something like "These administrators are total fascists."

    Look at the districts reply: We searched her cell phone without permission. We won't do that again. Now we have a standard form requiring permission that all students must sign. WTF?! The problem was not a lack of parental signature. The problem was a flagrant abuse of rights, which apparently they are happy to continue.

  • by hypergreatthing (254983) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:44AM (#46592667)

    Actually demanding someone's password for any reason is the big picture here. It doesn't matter if she did it at home or at school.
    The school should focus on what it's supposed to do, teach students. It shouldn't be policing the facebook pages of it's students.

  • by RocketChild (1397411) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:47AM (#46592687)
    Does Facebook now lock out the School District and the Principal for violating the TOS?
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:48AM (#46592691) Journal

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

    With a Sheriff right there looking over her shoulder? Sounds like permission in the same way Crimea gave Russia permission.

  • by geekoid (135745) <> on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:48AM (#46592705) Homepage Journal

    It's not really permission if you are intimidated into doing it.

    "The bigger problem here though is that the student actually thought that what she posted on facebook was somehow actually private. "
    It's only viewably by her friends. Her friends may repeat it, but it's no different then telling something to a group of friends.

    " Once you release something on the internet"
    overly simplistic to the point of being meaningless. It really depends on many other details. My computer is ';on the internet' does that mean it doesn't have any privacy?

    "particularly when you give that something to a for-profit company."
    So your medical company can broadcast you medical information all over the world?

    Learn to think complex thoughts, please.

  • Re:Felony Charges? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 (869701) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:04AM (#46592855)

    Oh, and the reason why we don't have a free democratic nation, and the reason why you don't see adults dissent, is because it is beaten out of us as children. We don't have a school system which produces free thinking citizens as adults.

    Every time I hear Americans talking about the "freest country in the world", I compare my school days with what I hear about school days of American children, and I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. At least in my class, "learning how to stand up against authority" was an (unofficial) subject.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:12AM (#46592929)
    Three reasons I'm guessing:

    One: people who make rules like these are fond of the idea that they are infallible. Admitting a policy was wrong would force them to admit they CAN be wrong, at which point they assume the students will riot and burn schools to the ground.

    Two: the people who made the policies aren't going to be changed, the groupthink that led them to that point hasn't changed, they still believe in the value of the policy and think that everyone else is just ignorant and misguided as to why the policy is so necessary.

    Three: Probably some idiotic notion about limiting liability. "If we admit it was wrong, someone ELSE MIGHT SUE US!" No one applies this logic to actually changing the policy or is willing to admit it's the policy that caused the lawsuit of course. It seems to be a weird quirk of groupthink that it's good to be shitty people in a half-assed attempt to limit liability.
  • by operagost (62405) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:16AM (#46592957) Homepage Journal

    In some states, a 13 year old can give permission for themselves to have an abortion, without parental consent of any kind.

    Coincidentally, Minnesota is one of them. However, the parents do have to be notified.

  • Re: obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:27AM (#46593055)

    It disgusts me how school officials act like they are prison wardens and the children they care for treated as though they have no rights.

    It potentially teaches one very important life lesson: those with power and authority are never to be trusted. But that requires a little thought and reflection that sadly only a few are likely to perform by this time this particular meat-grinder is through with them.

    Between things like private information gathering on Facebook like this, to the webcam viewing scandal a few years ago, to the teacher forcing a student to strip, there seems to be a serious problem with the attitude being brought into schools by officials.

    If you think about it, you realize that this problem is too widespread and too systematic, too uniform to be the result of a few isolated bad actors. It's intentional and it's planned. The goal is, if you teach (by repeated, reinforced example) children from a young age that they have no rights and authority is absolute, they will grow into adults who expect other authorities in government to be the same way.

    Oh if you want a fascinating exercise, go look up precisely why schools use bells. It's a tactic that is called psychological warfare in any other context. At the time that it was set up, Dewey and others were quite open about its purpose. Who needs a smoky back-room conspiracy when you can have selling points?

  • by Feyshtey (1523799) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:29AM (#46593067)
    Actually the big picture here is why any mandatory state-run program thinks they have the right to silence dissent. The anti-constitutional means are only evidence of the Orwellian ends.

    This entire scenario is no less frightening than if you were told by a sherrif that you must provide your Facebook password so that they could investigate the fact that you used the site to bitch about the DMV. Or posted that you disliked the voting record of your Congressmen. Or that you thought that the Presidential foreign policy was a joke.
  • by causality (777677) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:31AM (#46593093)

    Two: the people who made the policies aren't going to be changed, the groupthink that led them to that point hasn't changed, they still believe in the value of the policy and think that everyone else is just ignorant and misguided as to why the policy is so necessary.

    You remember how we've heard for years and years that our schools need more money? Well, they got it and they continue to get it. Do you know where that money went? Not to hire teachers and buy textbooks and computers ... no. For the most part, it went to hire more administrative staff.

    Much of schooling is a jobs project as illustrated by Jon Taylor Gatto. You now have lots of administrators who feel a need to justify the existence of their jobs. So, of course idiotic policies (especially "zero tolerance") will be deemed necessary. Like most problems society has, It was a predictable outcome.

  • by FictionPimp (712802) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:33AM (#46593101) Homepage

    In which case he should have a warrent right?

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:38AM (#46593141)
    and the parents / legal guardian should have been there.
  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:46AM (#46593225)

    Agree completely. What schools sometimes fail to understand, or perhaps willfully misunderstand, is that they can't write policy that gives them permission to do anything. Their policies can only limit authority given to them by something else, such as law or parental consent, or direct how they exercise authority given to them by something else.

    Personally, I think the American educational system might be a bit better off if they spend more time teaching and less time trying to be parents. It'd also have the nice effect of not convincing bad parents that the schools are there to do their job when they can't be bothered.

  • by SuiteSisterMary (123932) <> on Thursday March 27, 2014 @12:09PM (#46593449) Journal

    The school started a relationship with Facebook the moment they knowingly logged in with somebody else's credentials.

    Credentials gained under duress, in case anybody says 'but she handed them over!'

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @12:14PM (#46593509)

    For the most part, it went to hire more administrative staff.

    Citation needed on that.

    Citation [].
    Citation [].
    Citation [].

  • by lonOtter (3587393) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @12:48PM (#46593819) Homepage

    This was neither "reasonable" nor "justified." They'll pretend it was, but given that these people despise freedom and privacy in all forms, why would that be a surprise?

  • by swb (14022) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @01:00PM (#46593945)

    I think this administrative overreach is a bigger problem in small towns and suburbs than it is in cities. I think in these smaller communities you basically have collusion between the local police and the school administrators which makes the school administrators defacto prosecutors and the local police their enforcers, which is a dangerous combination of unaccountability.

    I think there's also a lot of parental buy-in in these communities or at least a lot of parental peer pressure to keep this kind of system in place.

    In a larger urban environment there's less of this; I think there's less cooperation between the schools and the police because both systems are just much larger and you get less of the informal collusion between the police and the school administrators. There's also the issue of urban populations being generally less trustful of the police which I think keeps the police more disengaged from the schools.

    My sense is that most parents, especially your run-of-the-mill suburban types, probably believe that all of this school-as-law is a "good thing" of course until they run into a situation where it's their kid getting stripped of his rights and treated like a criminal.

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