educationtechnews.comSchool demands student's Facebook password, ACLU suit claims

School demands student’s Facebook password, ACLU suit claims

March 15, 2012 by Claire Knight
Posted in: Free Speech, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views, Legal News

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit on behalf of a sixth-grader in Minnesota, claiming her school violated her constitutional rights.

The ACLU sued the Minnewaska Area School District , claiming school officials violated student R.S.’s:

  • First Amendment rights by punishing her for off-campus speech, and
  • Fourth Amendment rights by demanding her Facebook password.

Here’s what happened, according to the complaint:

During the 2010-11 school year, R.S. posted a Facebook comment that stated she “hated” a school hall monitor who was “mean” to her. The next day, R.S. was called to the principal’s office, where she was given a detention for being rude and required to apologize to the hall monitor.

A few days later, R.S. posted another Facebook comment: “I want to know who the f%$# told on me.” For this comment, R.S. received a one-day in-school-suspension and was banned from participating in a class ski trip.

Later in the school year, concerned parents called the school to report that their son was talking about sex with R.S. In response, school officials “demanded that R.S. give them her email and Facebook login.” The complaint accuses guidance counselor Mary Walsh and another school employee of searching her Facebook account.

How far is too far, when it comes to students’ Facebook accounts? Chime in below — and don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Tags: , , , ,

  • Brian

    Giving your FB account login/password to anyone else violates Facebook’s terms of service that we all agree to as users of the site. Case closed. It is one thing for FB to turn that info over to “authorities” as requested, but another for an individual to say you must give us your password. No school personnel should be asking for that. Take technology out of the equation here…how would a school handle this if it were paper based?

  • AK Mom

    There is nothing here about RS’s parents. Why are they okay with the content and language of her posts and suing the school? The school should not demand the email or passwords, but should have referred the matter to OCS or possibly the police due to the harassment issues.

  • School buy a clue

    When will schools learn that they don’t own the student. The student is responsible for his/her in school behavior and behavior that could be considered truly disruptive. The original FB post did not rise to the level of disruption. The school made it a bigger issue. They also had no grounds or logic to request the studnet’s password. If they did, why wouldn’t they have requested their Twitter, email, Four square, or another password.

    This case is clearly a 1st ammendment rights issue. It can easily be argued that the hall monitor is a school official. The student expressed his/her experience and feelings about the the school official who is by abstraction a government official. The student was criticizing government action (being mean to him/her). The suspension and forced apology is equivalent to government oppressed speech and censorship of official criticism.

    Once again non-thinking school administrators failed the student by not using this valuable teachable moment. They could have used the “incident” to teach students the proper way to address grievances against the school or government. Instead, they are stuck in a law suit and wasting valuable education dollars on a bonehead mistake.

  • Mel

    Sixth grade and already cusses like a sailor and discussing sex?! What’s with the parent(s)? Obviously, NO supervision – and really too young to be on Face Book (IMO). The school was in the wrong to ask for her password – but it’s clearly a situation that deserves their attention and concern.

    One more point, I disagree minor students should be ‘responsible for their own behavior’. If they’re UNDER 18, their PARENTS are responsible for them until them. Time to step up and take care of your kids! You can’t be a parent if you feel the need to be their ‘friend’. Be a loving and supportive parent, but YOU are ultimately responsible for their behavior.



    Quick Vote

    • Is it a good idea for teachers to communicate with students on social media?

      Please Vote to View Results

      Loading ... Loading ...
  • Aruba Networks For as low as $3 per student, get reliable 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi that won’t interrupt learning. Lock in your rate with Aruba Networks. Aruba’s 802.11ac Instant Access Point have built-in management features and don’t require monthly subscription fees.

    Lock in your rate with Aruba Networks.


    See what readers are saying...

    • john gipson: i was trying to read a book on my ipad during chapel where all we could do besides electronics was listen to the seniors...
    • Peter Rogers: Several of my son's teachers allow personal cellular telephones and smart pads to be used in the classroom for research ...
    • Matson Law:
    • Matson Law: You can argue that it is "legal" to breath test kids at their prom, since kids rights are definitely limited at school. ...
    • Jonathan Taylor: As of 2/11/15, there are 58 known lawsuits against higher education institutions alleging due process, sex discriminatio...
    • macduude: I would have followed up with "those who made threats have been reported to the appropriate authorities. As a school ad...