Off-campus posts by 12 year-old about hall monitor brings detention and more
R. S. was a 12 year-old sixth-grader in a Minnesota public school. During the 2010-2011 school year, R. S. posted a comment on her Facebook profile that she hated a hall monitor for being mean to her. Somehow a screen shot of R. S.’s post made its way to the principal. R. S. was given detention for being rude and discourteous and had to apologize to the hall monitor.
A few days later, R. S. wrote on Facebook, “I want to know who the f%$# told on me.” For that she received a one-day in school suspension and missed a class ski trip. All of her postings were done away from school and not on a school computer.
Several months later, a parent complained to the school that R. S. was talking about sex with her son. A sheriff’s deputy and two school employees called R. S. to the office and demanded her email and Facebook passwords. Without a search warrant, the deputy searched her accounts.
There are several legal issues involved with the school’s action and discipline of R. S. In March, 2012, R. S. filed a lawsuit* in federal court claiming a violation of free speech and Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Her lawyer argues that she should have been read her Miranda rights before being forced to give up her passwords. He also argues that a parent should have been notified and be present during the search of her computer. The complaint states that “R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room” as she watched a counselor, a deputy, and another school employee go through her private communications.
In September, 2012, a federal district court denied the school’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Judge Michael Davis wrote “that the school officials implicated here were motivated by, and conducting themselves in accordance with, a ‘continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional conduct.'” The lawsuit was allowed to continue. Update: It was later disclosed that R.S. was Riley Stratton. The case was settled in March, 2014. The school district agreed to pay Riley $70,000 and rewrite their social media policies regarding the monitoring of student online bahavior.
What do you think about the discipline for her posts? Based on other stories on this site about student online speech done off-campus, was she appropriately disciplined or did the school overreact?