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School District Sued By ACLU Over Student's Free Speech Rights 466

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-how-you-play dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The ACLU is suing Minnewaska Area Schools and Pope County, according to this article in the StarTribune. At issue: school administrators and a sheriff's deputy forced a girl to hand over login information to her Facebook and email accounts, after she posted on Facebook that she 'hated' a school hall monitor who had been 'mean' to her, and cursed in a separate Facebook comment because someone reported her. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an order that would restrain school officials from attempts to regulate or discipline students based on speech made outside of school hours and off school property."
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School District Sued By ACLU Over Student's Free Speech Rights

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  • by sosume (680416) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:29AM (#39285083) Journal

    In this regard (free speech being regulated by schools, universities, employers, etc) the US is starting to look a lot like former Eastern Germany. I mean, like in this movie [] I find it really hard to understand how the US justifies this spying on each other's thoughts.

  • by bughunter (10093) <bughunter@earthlin k . net> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:29AM (#39285085) Journal

    This is disturbing not necessarily because of the password coercion, but because of the entire premise. What are the school administrators, the parents, and the entire adult community *thinking* when they make such a big friggin deal about "I hate you" comments that are clearly just juvenile emoting? Why are they getting involved in such petty hall locker politics to begin with?

    Did they never mature past a high school emotional age?

    Were they itching to make an example of someone?

    Do they have some policy or quota that they need to demonstrate compliance with?

    In other words, it's just like when my wife flips out after I leave dirty socks on the floor. The socks aren't the real problem; something else is. She's been bottling it up, and the socks were just the trigger for some other pent up stress... it may or may not be something I did, but it certainly means there's something I need to fix. In the same sense, something else is going on in Minnewaska... something else that needs fixing. And it's not middle school drama.

  • Thugs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shiftless (410350) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:41AM (#39285489) Homepage

    You know, police officers used to be looked up to back in the day. Now they are just hired thugs to be feared. How big of a man do you have to be to intimidate and coerce a little girl? What a piece of shit

  • My special snowflake (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:54AM (#39285543) Homepage

    Too many parents think that their child is a special snowflake. They must protect their snowflake from having any negative experiences, like having another kid dislike them. Their special snowflake is not supposed to grow up, and not excepted to actually be able to cope with such traumatic thins as having some other kid actually disliking them.

    Of course, it goes without saying that no one else's kid is as special a snowflake as your own - it's absolutely fine to traumatize other kids, in order to protect your own.

    The next generation of Americans will have a huge challenge to overcome their upbringing...

  • Re:ACLU (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:22AM (#39285661) Homepage Journal

    Sometimes the ACLU's actions make me roll my eyes, but on this one, they're right.

    Why is it that so many posts praising the ACLU in any way contain this kind of ritual disclaimer? Can you give actual examples of some of the eye-roll-inspiring things the ACLU has done, or is it just "I've heard they're a liberal organization, and liberals are icky"?

  • by Phrogman (80473) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:51AM (#39285769) Homepage

    Same up here in Canada. My High School (grades 8-12, ~250 students) was mostly farm kids. The teachers were mostly unqualified or should at the least never have been allowed to teach. The overwhelming pressure from the students was such that if you were too smart you would often find yourself being beaten up. Some sample moments from my school:
    * The math teacher teaching grade 12 math was living with one of his female students. She got straight A's of course.
    * The grade 9 English teacher I had, had to the best of my knowledge no teaching credentials. He had been hired before they were required. He taught English and the Agriculture courses (we had a barn attached to the school). He liked to separate his class into 2 halves - those he liked (farmer's kids) and those he didn't (anyone unusual, males with long hair (this was the 70's). The first group was referred to as the Wolves (or something like that) the second as the Rabbits (or something like that). Essays written by Rabbits got written up on the board so we could review them word by word in class.
    * Grade 10 English teacher. She was nice but was qualified to teach Phys Ed and Biology. They hired here but then had her teach English. I ended up teaching most of the grammar lessons because she didn't understand it at all.
    * Chem teacher 10-12. He was an alcoholic type, and we students periodically met him in the local bar after class. He delivered all his lectures via overhead projector and never looked at students most of the time.
    * Our guidance counselor was a bitter ex-nun. She hated the students I suspect. I know she told me that I was "too stupid to go to university, you should go learn welding or something".
    * We had a music teacher who lived near the school. He would regularly hold all-night parties featuring mostly free booze and weed. He invited a lot of the band students to these parties, particularly the young females.

    Nothing was ever done about these situations sadly.

  • Re:Dangerous (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flimflammer (956759) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:34AM (#39285975)

    You'll want to take this up with the 1st and 4th amendment of the constitution.

    The school doesn't have the authority and it never will. The ACLU isn't being foolhardy. They're entirely right here. If the school suspected something dangerous, they should have alerted the authorities and the parents with the information they had and been done with it. They had no rights to threaten a little girl into handing over her login details for things she has done off school property.

    Every example you gave have procedures to deal with them. Defamation? That is a civil matter. Stalking, violence? That is a job for the police.

    Schools should never have the right to discipline a child for something said off school property. That's why this whole cyber-bullying thing is such a joke. Parents expect the schools to be able to do something, but they can't do anything. Nor should they be able to. If it doesn't happen on school property, there is no reason for the school to be involved.

  • by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:55AM (#39286065)

    Exactly. The US is not free because no one tries to curtail our freedoms. The US is free because when people try to curtail our freedoms we have strong recourse. Now, in recent times our recourse has been more and more restrained, but there are two boxes left that we haven't been using very much: jury and ammo. The US needs a larger, more concerted push at jury notification.

  • by Fjandr (66656) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:57AM (#39286075) Homepage Journal

    At least in the USA police are typically not allowed to interview minors without at least notifying the parents, so it wouldn't surprise me if either department policy or state law was broken during these proceedings. However, it's hard-to-impossible to get abusive officers (or departments) disciplined for anything unless there is video and a willing district attorney (something of a rarity in itself), so it probably doesn't matter much if the former is the case.

  • by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:17AM (#39286545) Journal

    No idea who modded the parent down. Of course, maybe his problem was that he posted some long ago, far away scenario that could "never" happen in the US, right? Right?

    Unless you're in Texas. []

  • by bartosek (250249) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @12:30PM (#39289227)

    This. A thousand times this.

    At my son's school they have a student code of conduct regarding technology which both the children and their parents are supposed to sign. One of the more egregious clauses gives the school permission to seize and search through students cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, etc, if they believe there is some incriminating evidence contained within. I struck that clause out and wrote a note saying if they had any problems with that to contact me, not a peep.

    If the school has any concerns or suspicions about what my son is doing they should contact me and have me search through his stuff. If we give the school that power it just desensitises our children against invasive privacy abuse.

  • by demachina (71715) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:43PM (#39291181)

    "Schools may very well be an appropriate venue for handling most petty activities involving minors."

    I can see your point, since schools are substantially less about actually educating children, and more about indoctrinating them to their subservient roles in society and preparing them for a life working for corporations.

    Me I would rather we were raising our children to be highly educated, actively thinking, highly questioning rebels, who would give "honor courts" the "Animal House" treatment. Maybe if we had been raising kids like that for the last 40 years our presidential candidates wouldn't be a horror.

    I'm reminded of a quote from Kim Stanley Robinson's BlueMars [] , its more about corporations than schools but the two entities are remarkably similard, for a reason:

    "If democracy and self-rule are the fundementals, then why should people give up these rights when the enter their workplace? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, for choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue,-- control of our lives in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is,-- a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives' labor, under duress, to feed rulers who do no real work."

    Robinson wrote this in 1996, he didn't know we would completely give up figthing for our political rights five years later or that twelve years later his portrait of capitalism as feudalism would be so vividly illustrated.

  • by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:22AM (#39297701) Homepage

    >If you lived in the US, it would be a good thing that you didn't tell your dad until it was to late. He would have tried to have the teacher fired. She would keep her job, and you would have suffered the retaliation. It's not that he would have been fighting the teacher. He would be fighting the bureaucracy and the teacher's union.

    I am not entirely sure that's true. If I'd lived in the US I'm quite sure my dad's methods of doing so would have been rather different. If I lived in the US now and it happened to my kid I would approach it thusly:
      I'm absolutely certain that a lawsuit for slander and emotional abuse (I'm not sure about there but here emotional abuse of a minor is in fact a criminal offence - even though it's usually almost impossible to prove - this happened in front of 30 child witnesses and one adult witness) would have had at least a possibility of passing.
    Once suit is filed... I think right now I wouldn't even push very hard for a trial - I'd just get the school board on the back foot with some press reporting the event. Then I'd offer a nice low settlement figure, less than their expecting to pay in a court judgement - but contingent on the teacher being fired with cause and denied a refference.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.