- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2014

A school district in Minnesota will pay $70,000 in settlement fees for unlawfully demanding a student, now 15, hand over her Facebook and email passwords so administrators could check out her postings.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit in 2012 on behalf of the girl, Riley Stratton, who was given detention when school officials found remarks about a teacher’s aide on her social media site that weren’t perceived as positive, Fox News reported. Riley had been at home, and on her personal computer, when she posted the remarks.

The school heads also checked out Riley’s online chats with a fellow middle-schooler, Fox News reported.

“I was in tears,” the girl said, to the Star-Tribune. “I was embarrassed when they made me give over my password.”

The school forced her to provide her password so they could log into her account and browse — while a sheriff deputy stood and watched, Fox News reported.

“They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years — complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators,” said Wallace Hilke, an ACLU attorney who led Riley’s case, Fox News reported. “She wasn’t spreading lies or inciting them to engage in bad behavior. She was just expressing her personal feelings.”

Riley’s mother, meanwhile, said she never gave written consent for the school to view her daughter’s social media postings, and she wasn’t invited to sit in the room and watch as administrators combed through the pages, Fox News reported.

“They never once told me they were going to bring her into the room and demand her Facebook password,” Sandra Stratton said to the local newspaper. “I’m hoping schools kind of leave these things alone so parents can punish their own kids for things that happen off school grounds.”

The settlement money will be split between the family and the ACLU of Minnesota.

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