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ACLU files suit in Facebook privacy case

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The Judicial Update

March 14, 2012

Minnesota: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit on behalf of a 12-year old Minnesota girl who says public school officials and a police officer forced her to surrender her Facebook password.[1] Officials for the Minnewaska Area school system say they only asked for the girl's password to "prevent disruption" after a parent complained about the content of the student's Facebook account.[2]

The lawsuit alleges that the student came home "crying, depressed, angry, scared and embarrassed" after being intimidated into divulging her login information by a school counselor and a deputy sheriff. The sheriff arrived in uniform and was armed with a Taser.[3] The student says her constitutional rights were violated when she was punished due to comments she had made on Facebook. The girl used her home computer to post a comment saying she "hated" a school hall monitor who had been "mean" to her.[4]

School officials said the comment constituted bullying, and the girl was given a detention and told to apologize. The girl again took to Facebook, this time posting a comment complaining that someone had reported her previous Facebook post. After the second incident, school officials allegedly forced the girl to surrender her Facebook login information, this time in response to a parent who complained that her son and the girl were using Facebook to talk about sex. The school district says "The district did not violate R.S.'s civil rights, and disputes the one-sided version of events set forth in the complaint written by the ACLU...The district is confident that once all facts come to light, the district's conduct will be found to be reasonable and appropriate."[3]