A Minnesota girl will receive $70,000 as part of a settlement reached after a lawsuit claiming school officials forced her to surrender her Facebook password was filed in federal court.
The Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union helped Riley Stratton with her case and ended up settling with the Minnewaska Area Schools for $70,000 and an agreement that district would rewrite its social media policies.
While in sixth grade, Stratton was forced to surrender her password after she wrote a critical post about a school hall monitor and had a chat of “sexual nature” while she was accessing Facebook from home.
“I was in tears,” the 15-year-old told the Star Tribune. “I was embarrassed when they made me give over my password…I was a little mad at whoever turned me in ’cause it was outside school when it happened.”
Stratton is now home-schooled.
“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,” said ACLU attorney Wallace Hilke.
Minnewaska Area Schools admitted no liability in the settlement.
“They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years -- complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators,” Hilke said. “She wasn’t spreading lies or inciting them to engage in bad behavior, she was just expressing her personal feelings.”
As a result of what happened, Stratton now uses an alias on Facebook.
[The Star Tribune]