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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 @10:24AM (#46592495)

    ... apparently people are still using Facebook.

    • by goombah99 (560566)

      where fascism and distopian sci fi intersect is when Terms of Service become the common law enforced by the full might of the state. IN the future not only will be using Facebook but it will be mandatory to receive basic services like power, water, drivers lic, food stamps.

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tompaulco (629533)

        ... 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.

        Looks like she violated the Facebook ToS already by not being old enough to have a Facebook account.

    • I moved back to Myspace ages ago! Just kidding, in reality I moved back to not giving a damn about anyone's opinions or what they're doing and playing video games instead.
  • by schneidafunk (795759) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:25AM (#46592499)
  • But what were these these "disparaging" comments exactly?
    • Apparently she was complaining about a teacher's aid... at home, not in school. I haven't seen anything more specific.

    • 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.

      • It should be noted that the school did NOT search her cell phone because of what she said about the Hall Monitor (at least according to the school), but rather because the girl had been sexting with some other kid, whose parents complained to the school.
        • because the girl had been sexting with some other kid, whose parents complained to the school.

          Even if true, unless it was being done at school, why is the school involved?

      • 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 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 tompaulco (629533)

        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.

        So if all students must sign this, then why even have a form? What if they don't agree with the policy? Do they kick them out of school? Isn't the state required to provide education to the student, even if the child does not agree to an illegal and unconstitutional search of their property? If this was a private school, that is one thing, but a government funded public education facility must comply with the laws of the government. If they refuse, the government should withdraw the funding and throw the a

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:41AM (#46592637)

      But what were these these "disparaging" comments exactly?

      "You look like someone that would read Slashdot."

  • It sounds like the school was violating Facebook's Terms of Service, too.

    The school has no relationship with Facebook and isn't bound by any terms of service - it's the student who was coerced to violate them.

    • Edit: Maybe if the school, or some of the administrators directly involved, have a Facebook account, and the ToS also forbid users asking other users for their account information...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      There is a concept of "Tortious interference with contract rights". If you are aware that a contract is in place, and convince someone to break the terms of the contract you can be held liable. And the standard of proof is a lot lower than criminal law.

      It's pretty unlikely that the school was completely unaware there were terms and conditions, and they really should have considered the possibility they were in breach of these terms.
    • by SuiteSisterMary (123932) <slebrun@noSPAm.gmail.com> 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 Bengie (1121981)

      It sounds like the school was violating Facebook's Terms of Service, too.

      The school has no relationship with Facebook and isn't bound by any terms of service - it's the student who was coerced to violate them.

      Knowingly asking someone to violate a civil contract is against the law. If Nvidia went to an AMD engineer and asked them to take a bunch of insider information and was going to pay them for it, Nvidia is asking the AMD engineer to violate a civil contract for whatever secret NDA stuff was signed when that engineer got hired.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:49AM (#46592711)

    This girl is now going to be subjected to a lot of insidious B.S. until she leaves. Teachers will likely be very harsh for any sort of subjective grading. School staff is going to be watching her like a hawk. If she steps one toenail out of line, she's going to be in a world of hurt. If it's one thing I know, when you have no power and she really doesn't, the people who do have even a little power will make your life miserable. And this crap is going to follow her for a very long time too because it's now got a life of its own online.

  • Felony Charges? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davydagger (2566757) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @10:50AM (#46592731)
    > It sounds like the school was violating Facebook's Terms of Service, too.

    Thats a felony under federal law now. Aaron Swartz was facing 15 years for something similar.

    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.

    We can pretend this is an isolated incident and not the trend of a large society.

    This also demonstates the need to post either anonymously or pseudonymlsy. Its to prevent authority figures from fucking you
    • 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 citizenr (871508) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:03AM (#46592845) Homepage

    Settlement is NOT a win. It is a cop out.

    • by ruir (2709173)
      Or so you say. When faced with a lengthy trial, that can go for years, costs of lawyers, and even if you are quite sure you are capable of winning, the possibility of 2 or 3 recourses, often you will settle for an x sum of money. You will be much saner, will go on with your life, and pocket some money on top of that. I did it a few year ago, and even if it would be easy to combat the clown lies my opponent was making up, with plenty of documentation to support my case, at the end of the day, I never regrett
  • by swb (14022) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @11:25AM (#46593041)

    The Minneapolis StarTribune had this article and what troubled me was this passage:

    "As part of the settlement, Minnewaska school policies now address electronic devices for the first time.

    The new rules say electronic records and passwords created off-campus can only be searched if thereâ(TM)s a reasonable suspicion they will uncover violations of school rules. Enhanced teacher training was also part of the settlement."

    What bothers me about this is that there seems to be this idea that there are "school rules" that can conceivable cover ANY off-campus behavior, actions or activities. The idea of "reasonable suspicion" as being the grounds for searching anything seems to just make this seem all the more egregious.

    As far as I'm concerned, the power of a school administrator extends to the boundaries of the school campus and only off-campus to the extent that the students are participating in some school-organized event (ie, playing school sports off-site or being on a field trip). You can't just say that because someone is a student in a school that you can create rules that extend past the schoolhouse door and empower you to utilize coercive force (police power) to enforce them.

    I'm sure much of this thinking has been driven by the motivation to cut underage drinking by making it a violation of school policies and thus eliminating eligibility for sports or activities.

    • 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 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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