Minnesota Student Wins $70k in Settlement Over Facebook Violation

Sagehorn Tweet Last month, we reported on a controversy involving a student from Rogers High School that began on Twitter. The student, Reid Sagehorn, is pictured above. This week, a different popular social media outlet played a big part in a $70,000 settlement involving another Minnesota school kid. Two years ago, a then sixth grader Riley Stratton reportedly used Facebook to make disparaging remarks about one of the teachers' aides at Minnewaska Area Middle School — Ms. Stratton said she "she hated a school hall monitor because she was mean," according to the Star Tribune. Facebook Privacy Riley was given detention, even though she posted the remarks while at home, not on a school computer. Then, the mother of another student discovered her son had been having discussions of a sexual nature with Ms. Stratton on Facebook. The mother complained to school officials about the inappropriate online discussions, and Riley was subsequently called into an administrator's office regarding the complaint. According to reports, the then 13-year-old Ms. Stratton was pressured — in front of school administrators and a local law enforcement officer — to hand over her Facebook and email passwords.

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She was then forced to look on while the adults perused through her personal accounts — she was understandably quite rattled by the ordeal:
“I was in tears,” the now 15-year-old Riley told the Star Tribune. “I was embarrassed when they made me give over my password.”
On Monday, Riley settled for $70k in damages from Minnewaska Area Schools stemming from the incident. Greg Schmidt, the Minnewaska Superintendent, attempted to clarify the school's position:
“Some people think schools go too far and I get that, but we want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental.” Schmidt, who was not Superintendent at the time of the incident, added, “The school’s intent wasn’t to be mean or bully this student, but to really remedy someone getting off track a little.”
ACLU attorney Wallace Hilke, who represented Riley Stratton, felt differently:
“A lot of schools, like the folks at Minnewaska, think that just because it’s easier to know what kids are saying off campus through social media somehow means the rules have changed, and you can punish them for what they say off campus.”
Hilke also added:
“Kids’ use of social media is the family’s business, not the school’s business unless it’s a case of cyberbullying or poses a substantial threat to school activities.”
In addition to the $70k, and as part of the settlement, Minnewaska agreed to change its policies to further limit the school's ability to search students' e-mails and social media accounts created outside school property. Since the incident, Riley has left Minnewaska's school system to be homeschooled.   Photos via: Star Tribune — New York Daily News — City Pages (Jacki V. Senior)  

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