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Minnesota School District Where Sixth Grader Had To Surrender Facebook Password to Administrators Settles for $70,000

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The Minnewaska Area Schools in Minnesota have  settled a lawsuit brought by the family of Riley Stratton and the local ACLU over an incident that happened two years ago. School officials told the then-13-year-old sixth grader she had to give them her Facebook password so that they could enter and search her Facebook account. A police officer was present. What was Stratton accused of doing?

Apparently, it started when she made a post (from home!) about hating a hall monitor who she said was being mean. Stratton got an in-school suspension for the infraction. Afterward, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, she went to Facebook to find out who snitched. An unidentified parent then accused her of having a Facebook conversation of a sexual nature with her son. For that, school officials hauled Stratton in, took her Facebook password, and went through her account. It's unclear what they found, but the district did not accept any liability in agreeing to the $70,000 settlement, and it is still defending its decision. Via the Tribune:

Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt…says the case teeters on a fine line over when schools can play a parenting role to combat things such as cyberbullying.

"Some people think schools go too far and I get that," Schmidt said. "But we want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental."

He wasn't in charge at the time…but he was involved in the settlement and said: "The school's intent wasn't to be mean or bully this student, but to really remedy someone getting off track a little."

Who is this guy? A credentialed educational "expert," no doubt. When I was in middle school, if a teacher or administrator were hanging around the park or other places young people congregated to listen in on their conversation, he'd be considered a creep. Even if someone did complain to an administrator about something someone said outside of school, it seems unthinkable that the administrator would take it seriously.

Ensuring a smooth-running classroom and school is enough of a task without policing children outside of school to boot. "Getting off track a little" is something that could merit, for example, a phone call home. Certainly it doesn't justify a brutish invasion of privacy.

Though the district did not admit any liability in the incident, it did agree to new restrictions that limit searches of online accounts to when there's "reasonable suspicion they will uncover violations of school rules." Even this is unreasonable. School rules aren't laws, and they shouldn't be something students can break while operating online and off-campus. Would a school claim the power to search a student's bedroom for cheat sheets?

Mercifully, Riley, who doesn't want to return to any school after the humiliating experience, is now homeschooled.

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  1. I still cannot fathom how schools have gone from “fuck you, I’m not at school” to “we own your ass at all times, this is a prison for children”. It’s fucking insane.

    1. That gets me too. How did it get to this point? And how are parents no livid that schools presume to monitor their students’ whole lives rather than simply providing the educational/babysitting services that they were created for?

      1. Some parents are, but it’s other parents who are like the bitch in this story who complained to the school about a potentially sexy Facebook chat. Parents are a huge part of the problem.

        1. Pettiness is just too easy nowadays.

          1. The problem is, pettiness gets rewarded.

      2. Too many parents still send their kids to government schools.

      3. A weird kind of accountability is what got us to this point… I think.

        Parents who believed everything could be solved with a lawsuit started demanding that schools protect their children from other children at all times.

        Schools, fearing constant lawsuits and overactive biddies in the P.T.A., had to try to corral every behavior that might be interpreted as one student victimizing another.

        An a side not, I had a progressive hard-nosed education system Democrat (of an older generation) say that she knew the jig was up once the schools started providing free lunches. I didn’t pursue her line of thought, but I assume it had something to do with the school morphing into the parent. Or something.

    2. The STate is the biggest bully of them all.

  2. All in all, he’s just another port in the firewall.

    1. If we don’t check your tweets, how can you have any pudding?

  3. “Some people think schools go too far and I get that,” Schmidt said. “But we want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental.”

    So…we make it detrimental.

    1. “Some people think schools go too far and I get that,” Schmidt said. “But we want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental fuck you that’s why.”

    2. Since there is a virtually endless number of actions a kid can take outside of school that can be detrimental, I guess that means there is no aspect of a student’s life this asshole thinks is outside of his control.

      1. If that’s his position, perhaps we can start suing the schools for not protecting children who are hurt while not at school?

        1. That is a pretty good idea. If they have the authority, they have the corresponding responsibility.

          1. That would be great – but SCOTUS has already ruled – even those agencies actually charged with protection have no responsibility to actually protect you to an extent where you are able to seek damages for lack of protection.

            Which is why everyone who wants to should be able to buy a firearm to protect themselves… but most people don’t know this – functionally what it means is if you call the cops and say my family is being kidnapped and tortured – they show up, but sit outside your house for 2 days and when they finally go in, the entire family is dead.

            You cannot sue… or rather you can, but there’s extensive precedence that would kill any lawsuit quickly.

            Though if had an extra million and this happened to my child – I might do it anyway – someone has to punish these people for this behavior and since voters abdicated that a long time ago by constantly voting for the same party/people – maybe losing lawsuits is one way to go.

            At this point – I don’t care what works – I just hope we can come up with something that can reverse some of these trends.

    3. “Some people think schools go too far and I get that,” Schmidt said. “But we want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental.”
      So…we make it detrimental.

      I picture you saying that, standing there, holding a baseball bat, slapping the end with one hand.

  4. “Some people think schools go too far and I get that,” Schmidt said. “But we want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental.”

    Ah yes, the corollary to the cop’s canard of “Drugs can ruin your life. So I am going to arrest you and ruin your life.”

    1. Yep – that’s the new morality – better for you to be locked up with murderers and rapists and other real criminals than for society to allow you to get high.

  5. And how does one “take” someone’s password?

    Just make up a fake one and when it doesn’t work, blame the software. Blaming software usually works for me at work.

    1. Or you could just teach your kids to tell school administrators to fuck the fuck off. I mean, I don’t blame her, she’s a kid, but that’s her first problem.

    2. I blame the farts on the dog.

      1. “WHY DID YOU FART TIPPY?”*

        * George Carlin RIP.

      2. My farts are also software problems.

    3. Blaming software usually works for me at work.

      Fun fact. When I was a software engineer, everyone blamed the software. When I left software engineering and got into the networking, no one ever blamed the software, and they only blamed the network.

      I feel like that guy at the campfire that keeps trying to move away from the smoke.

      1. Well, I’m the hardware guy, so I can usually be reasonably confident when I blame the software.

  6. everyone needs an extra facebook account I guess. maybe three.
    real one
    one that makes you look like an angel
    and a third that just has a giant “Fuck You!” on the home page.

    yeah sure, here’s my password.

    1. ^ Fucking awesome.

    2. I only have a fake one.

      1. For cybercrime, obviously.

        1. I’m probably guilty of terrorism or something for violating the Facebook terms of service.

  7. Of course the person who did this will never be held in any way accountable for costing the taxpayers $70,000 plus attorney’s fees.

    And I can’t blame anyone for taking the money and walking away but I really wish they would have held out and gone to court. The District needed to be bitchslapped by a judge and jury not just quietly write a check and pretend nothing happened.

    1. Even if they had gone to court, the taxpayers would still have footed the bill (bigger now, because lawyers), and NOTHING ELSE WOULD HAPPEN.

      1. Exactly – without voters and/or a public up-swell directly against things like this – it will continue forward and likely get worse.

        Just like LEO abuses.

  8. An unidentified parent then accused her of having a Facebook conversation of a sexual nature with her son.

    Who is this cunt, that has to go tell on a kid to the school “authorities” and is probably raising the next generation of namby-pamby, tattling from the shadows, puritan bureaucrat? The school handled it all wrong too, but this kind of parenting pisses me off.

    1. Naming the parent would be tantamount to naming the student and we all respect the privacy of students. Wait.

    2. Back in the day, the child of that person would have been unmercifully ragged on for MONTHS.

  9. This bullshit is absurd. Who the fuck do these school officials think they are?

    Worse than Hitler.

    1. You’ve been saying that a lot lately, and yet it’s appropriate.

      1. It’s my new thing. Someone told me recently that that one of the things you just can’t do (compare someone to Hitler), so I’m going out of my way to do so.

        (Yes, it’s a ripoff of Gutfeld.)

        1. that that’s one of the things

        2. I like the cut of your jib – so much I may steal this 🙂

          As I use the word irregardless for similar reasons – mainly because sooooo many people are convinced it’s not a word and those that think this way usually think anyone who uses such a word must be “stupid”, I go out of my way to use it.

          Irregardless, that’s just me – but I wanted to explain why I might steal your hitler idea in case you see me using it 🙂

    2. You know who else was worse than Hitler ….

  10. A cynic might suspect that poking around in a teenage girls facebook “things of a sexual nature” is a turn on for some men.

    1. I don’t think you have to be much of a cynic to think that a grown man who wants to check a teenage girl’s Facebook looking to find something “sexual” is a pervert who has no business near young girls.

      1. Of course we are downloading these files but rest assured they are for evidence only. The only people who will see them will be myself, the entire Police Department, the prosecutor, the judge, maybe the jury, a psychologist, the probation officer and any we keep for training purposes. Totally secure.

        1. Of course a guilty plea would reduce the number of people who see them, but that’s your choice.

    2. I firmly believe that just like the priesthood attracting record numbers of pedophiles, government schools do the same thing. It’s the perfect position for someone who wants unaccountable access to kids. And they are making it as unaccountable as possible, thereby attracting the worst possible people.

      1. There is no question about that. Any job that gives people access to kids is going to attract pedophiles. It has nothing to do with the government.

        Yes, the public schools are full of pedophiles to a much greater degree than the priesthood ever has been. We just don’t hear about it because public schools being an unsafe place to send your kids doesn’t fit the media narrative.

        1. Yes, the public schools are full of pedophiles to a much greater degree than the priesthood ever has been.

          Do you have any particular reason for believing this? I’m genuinely curious.

          1. The number of school sex scandals that happen versus the number of actual pedophile priests.

            Also, there is nothing about wanting to be a Priest that makes you more or less likely to be a pedophile. Since becoming a teacher requires a lot less sacrifice than becoming a priest, it makes sense that among the population of pedophiles cruising for access to children, more of them would choose to be teachers than priests.

            1. Sounds plausible.

              I tend to assume (admittedly naively) that people are OK, so I miss things. My subjective experience of school also seems to have been rather different from most people’s.

            2. “Also, there is nothing about wanting to be a Priest that makes you more or less likely to be a pedophile.”

              I wouldn’t say ‘nothing’. Until recently a priestly position was probably far easier to hide behind than a teaching profession. You have the order, natural secrecy, aura of power with which to control, and access to the tactics of ‘spiritual’ persuasion.

            1. Not all sexual misconduct is pedophilia, but still, that’s disturbing.

              I can’t imagine that there would be much difference between public and private schools in this regard, though.

        2. For a certain breed of pedophile, I would expect that the inherent authority and protections against accountability would make a pubsec job with access to kids better than a real job with access to kids.

  11. What I don’t get is how anyone is dumb enough to create a Facebook account with their real name. I have had an account for years, but under an alias. If I apply for a job, no perspective employer is going to find it. And if they did, they’d be bored shitless at the pictures of my friends and family and the occasional Happy Birthday Uncle 110.

    1. Don’t worry, the facial recognition software gives you away to the NSA.

      1. I have a fake picture on my fake account.

        1. Mine is a picture of a room.

    2. If Facebook becomes as ubiquitous and permanent as Google, NOT having an account will be red flag. It probably already is at some companies.

      1. Actually – almost all 20 somethings I work near/with/around in IT do not have any desire to have a FB account.

        Even highschool kids, around here anyway, have FB accounts, but rarely use them because parents, grandparents, etc – they use twitter, instagram, etc, etc (not google plus for some reason).

  12. Public schools have always been about control. They attract authoritarians like flies on shit. It’s awful, but not in the least surprising, that those same authoritarians want control over people whether they’re in school or not.

    1. Keep in mind that even though public schools are authoritarian in nature and by design create submission in the general student population a LOT of us went through that system and came out the other side saying, ‘Fuck the State.’

      All is not lost.

      1. a LOT of us went through that system and came out the other side saying, ‘Fuck the State.’

        Based on revealed voting preferences, approximately 1 – 2% acquired that attitude, plus retained enough critical thinking skills to recognize that voting for TEAM BE RULED was supporting, not opposing, the State.

  13. Glad to see I’m not the only one disturbed by school officials and cops going through the private correspondence of teenage girls. Shouldn’t they be arrested, instead of sticking it to the taxpayers for 70K?

    1. In their defense, the ability to think independently was beaten out of the cops and school administrators when they were in school themselves, so they were just following procedure.

  14. Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt…says the case teeters on a fine line over when schools can play a parenting role to combat things such as cyberbullying.

    “Fine line” my eye.

  15. I’ve taught my kids to give nothing without parental consent. NOTHING.

    There was a theft incident in metal shop when my son was a junior. The police arrived and singled out every kid for an interview. When it was time for my kid he simply said to the cop, “I will not speak with you until I have council or my parents”. The cop tried the old tactic “If you are innocent you can say anything.” “Call my parents” was repeated and the administrators called me. I was pissed. Before the start of the semester, I had to sign a form acknowledging the presence of cameras in the shop classes. I asked, “Why don’t you watch the tapes, find the guilty party and leave the remainder of the students alone?”

    I could hear that fucker blinking over the phone.

    1. “Why don’t you watch the tapes, find the guilty party and leave the remainder of the students alone?”

      That sounds too much like work. Where’s the fun in that?

    2. “Why don’t you watch the tapes, find the guilty party and leave the remainder of the students alone?”

      You could hear the blinking because they didn’t want to answer the truth “I know it seems odd, but as our goal is total control and subservience, police interrogations for every student is better than easily identifying the individual, handling it appropriately, and moving on”.

  16. There has to be a pervert administrator component to this. There always is. “Sexy chat? Gimme the password!”

    When I was in high school, we went on a (non-school sponsored) ski trip to Tahoe over winter break. There was a lot of partying and fornicating. One small portion of the debauchery was videotaped, involving a very attractive 16 year old cheerleader. Rumors circulated once school was back in session, and school security demanded the tapes. Not police, school security. And nothing else happened.

    They’re probably still “using” the tape to this day.

    1. Just say no.

      (And tell them they are worse than Hitler, of course.)

    2. Man, kids are stupid. How hard is it to say “what video?”?

  17. Note to self: discuss with little one this afternoon that she is never to hand over any of her social media passwords to school personnel.

  18. So the obvious next question: is the $70,000 payment subject to federal income or state level taxes? How much? What rate?

    1. Pretty sure they are taxable as ordinary income.

  19. Parents urgently need to be educating their kids on privacy rights and how to use web technologies with a strong sense of self-awareness. Young people in particular are sitting ducks on social networks since they are far more likely to treat the internet like their extended brain which would be OK if the world wasn’t full of snide tyrants like Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt.

  20. When I was in high school I had no respect for the teachers or administrators, because if they were worth a shit, they wouldn’t be working in the high school in the crappy little town where I grew up. Q.E.D.

  21. How do you think the school flacks are going to word the new school levy that they put in front of the voters this next election?

    Do you think that they will have the balls to put something like “There are a LOT of HAWT young girls in coming up and we anticipate the need for a lot more settlement money in the near future”?

    If I was in their district and they put a levy on the ballot asking for more money, I’d be very urinated off because you know they would never ever allude to why there is a sudden $70K shortfall in the budget.

  22. As part of the settlement the kid should be allowed to slap the school principal a few times.

    http://www.EliteVPN.tk

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