Court Rules That Student’s Facebook Messages are Protected Under First and Fourth Amendments
Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court in Minnesota ruled that a student’s online privacy is protected under the First and Fourth amendments, and any school officials who require the disclosure of a student’s password is violating their privacy rights. The case concerns a 12-year-old in Minnesota who wrote negative remarks about an employee at her school on her Facebook page. She was disciplined by the school for her posts, and the school forced her to hand over the passwords to her Facebook and personal email pages.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the court ruled that statements made away from school “are protected under the First Amendment and not punishable by school authorities unless they are true threats or are reasonably calculated to reach the school environment and are so egregious as to pose a serious safety risk or other substantial disruption in that environment.”
The ruling has been hailed by experts as a promising first step in guaranteeing privacy rights for online content.
“Public schools that require any of their students to register their social media usernames, or to provide access to their password protected digital content via required Facebook friending or the installation of a third-party software application for any reason are in clear violation of the First and Fourth Amendment,” wrote Bradley Shear, an attorney who has helped states deal with issues of privacy and social media.
What do you think about schools demanding access to their students’ online lives? What can people do to properly protest this infringement?