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Student forced to give Facebook password cost schools $70,000

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Reported March 27, a student was forced to give up her Facebook password to school officials, but a lawsuit was filed and it cost Minnesota schools $70,000. Gotta "Like" that!

Minnesota school officials forced the 15-year-old student to give them her Facebook password, and email account access. The 6th grader apprehensively handed over the information. They proceeded searching her private information without contacting the teenager's mother. Officials were reading comments she posted about a hall monitor she thought was mean, comments she had a sexually charged conversation with a boy, and then officials punished her even though the comments were all made when she was at home.

While school officials have not directly indicated they did anything wrong, Superintendent Greg Schmidt ignored they violated the students privacy rights, and instead said the "debate" is about what part of a students social life can schools have oversight on, especially when the issue is cyberbullying.

The Minnesota school district agreed to a settlement that "claimed school officials violated a student's constitutional rights," when the school checked her Facebook and emails without her consent.

Riley Stratton, won this settlement case with defensive support from The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. The ACLU-MN filed a lawsuit in 2012, when Stratton was in 6th grade. Not only did the school violate her rights to privacy, they also "punished her for the content she posted on her Facebook page," according to the ACLU-MN press release.

With the settlement payout the School District must also up-date its privacy policies.

Stratton said she hopes all schools will look over their student privacy policies to ensure another student doesn't have to go through the embarrassment she went through. Adding, "it was so embarrassing and hard on me to go through."

Not only were school officials searching her Facebook and email accounts, but the police also attended the search. The entire ordeal left Stratton so stressed out that she couldn't go back to school.

Stratton's mother believes if the situation occurs parents should be included. She said, they never asked her to be part of their prying, and "never once told her" about their plan.

Looks like school administrators thought her Facebook actions demanded oversight, but ended up costing them $70,000 when it was their own actions that failed. Stratton won't receive the entire settlement, but it will cover damages to the Strattons, and cover costs and support efforts by the ACLU-MN.

The Executive Director for ACLU-MN, did say there might be severe situations that happen to demand an appropriate search, but should stay within reason for a real safety risk.

When students are forced to give their Facebook password, schools officials should make sure they are not violating a students constitutional rights or it can cost them thousands of dollars.

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