Girl, 12, ‘interrogated’ by school staff until she gives up Facebook password
By Laura Cox
PUBLISHED: 03:36, 11 March 2012 | UPDATED: 03:52, 11 March 2012
A 12-year-old girl is suing her school district after staff at Minnesota middle school searched her Facebook and e-mail accounts.
The sixth-grade Minnewaska Area Middle School student, named in court documents as R.S., claims she twice suffered humiliating punishment for things she had written on Facebook.
She was also pressured by school officials to given them her password.Her complaint, back by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleges that the girl’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
It states: ‘R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room’ as she watched a counsellor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.
The girl claims she felt that one of the school’s adult hall monitors was picking on her, so she wrote on her Facebook wall that she hated the monitor because she was mean.
The message was not posted from school property or using any school equipment or connections, the lawsuit states.
Somehow, the school principal got a hold of a screenshot of the message, and punished R.S. with detention and made her apologize to the hall monitor.
She was in trouble again shortly thereafter for another Facebook post, which asked who turned her in, using an expletive for effect. She was given in school suspension and missed a class ski trip.
In the third incident, according to the complaint, R.S. was called in by school officials after the guardian of another student complained that R.S. had had a conversation about sex on Facebook.
The girl was allegedly called to a meeting with a deputy sheriff, school counsellor and an unidentified employee, where she was intimidated into giving up her login and passwords to her Facebook and e-mail accounts.
‘R.S. was extremely nervous and being called out of class and being interrogated,’ the lawsuit says. It adds that the officials did not have permission from R.S.’s mother to view her private communications, and gave her a hard time about some of the material they discovered.
The school district maintains that such searches did not cross any boundaries.
A spokesperson said: ‘The district is confident that once all facts come to light, the district’s conduct will be found to be reasonable and appropriate.’