School pays teen $70K after taking her Facebook password

A Minnesota teen posts disparaging remarks about a teacher's aide on Facebook. The school takes action. Now it has decided to pay for that action.

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A little more settled now. CBS Minnesota screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The relationship between schools and social media can enter the realms of paranoia.

If a teacher is seen using her Facebook account to make jokes about students, angst ensues. But when a student happens to criticize a teacher on Facebook, hailstones the size of bowling balls pour down from the skies.

In the latest incident to enter the light, a Minnesota school was upset when Riley Stratton, a sixth-grader at the time (2011), declared that she hated her teacher's aide. Unsurprisingly, she did it where teens often express their frustrations: Facebook.

As CBS Minnesota reports, the school decided to use this as what some might call a teaching moment. The lesson, presumably was "Might Is Right."

For Stratton, then 13, was made to hand over the passwords to her Facebook account and her e-mail account.

Stratton was not happy.

"She lost a tremendous amount of trust in adults," her lawyer, Wally Hike, told CBS.

Still, she didn't entirely lose her equilibrium, as she chose not to keep quiet about what had happened. The American Civil Liberties Union took on her case, and the school finally offered her $70,000 as part of a settlement.

Some might find this odd, as the school district insists it did ask for her parents' permission to access her Facebook and e-mail. Her mother insists it did not. There was no signed consent.

Minnewaska Schools Superintendent Greg Schmidt told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "We want to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental."

This is noble, of course. But some might wonder: detrimental to whom?

Stratton, who has now left the school, admits that someone who reads her Facebook page must have informed the school. She told the Star-Tribune: "I was a little mad at whoever turned me in 'cause it was outside school when it happened."

She was also not using any school equipment.

Though the school didn't concede any liability, Schmidt said: "The school's intent wasn't to be mean or bully this student, but to really remedy someone getting off track a little."

Some might say that this settlement remedies a school getting off track a little.

 

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