12-Year-Old US Girl Sues School District Over Facebook Profile Search

A 12-year-old took to court after being forced by her school to hand over her Facebook password and punished for posts she made on the social networking site.

The case has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and comes amid growing concern in the United States about individuals' ability to keep their email and other online accounts secret from their school, employer and government authorities. Photo: Hilco666/Flickr

The sixth grade student, identified in court documents as R.S., as she had been punished by teachers at Minnewaska Area Middle School for things she wrote on Facebook while at home, and using her own computer.

She is said to have been punished with detention after criticizing a school hall monitor, and again after a fellow student told teachers that she had discussed sex online.

According to The Telegraph, the ACLU is stating that the teen’s First and Fourth Amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech and freedom from illegal searches respectively, were violated.

Legal papers cite: “RS was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room,” while school staff and a sheriff’s deputy read her private messages.

It went on: “RS was extremely nervous and being called out of class and being interrogated.” The lawsuit claims that the mother of RS had not given permission for the viewing.

A spokesman for the school district responded: “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.”

The case reminds about growing concern in the US about the extent to which supposedly private communications can be kept from those in authority.

The ACLU recently urged the Department of Corrections in Maryland to stop requiring applicants to provide their Facebook passwords when applying for jobs.

“The Union claims job seekers are now asked to “voluntarily” log into their accounts during interviews, displaying potentially embarrassing photographs and messages. Most comply because they are afraid they will otherwise miss out on the job,” writes The Telegraph.

The MSNBC’s study showed that many university sports departments require students to “friend” their coach, giving officials access to their “friends-only” posts.

The University of North Carolina handbook reads: “Each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings.”

“The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor athletes’ posts.”

Meanwhile, due to Facebook one more cause launched. A Washington state corrections officer is facing bigamy charges after his first wife learned due to Facebook her unfaithful husband had married another woman without bothering to divorcer her.

According to charging documents, Alan L. O’Neill married a woman in 2001, moved out in 2009, changed his name and remarried without divorcing her.

Ellenora Fulk, of Tacoma, Wash., realized her estranged husband, Alan, changed his name and shacked up with Teri Wyatt-O’Neill after Facebook suggested she and Teri become ‘friends.’

“Wife No. 1 went to wife No. 2′s page and saw a picture of her and her husband with a wedding cake,” Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told reporters.

O’Neill was placed on administrative leave after prosecutors charged him Thursday. He could face up to a year in jail.

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