Now that Facebook is no longer pimping our children, the public school system is rushing to fill the void. Still smarting from getting whacked by the Supreme Court for strip searching middle school students over asprin, our ever-inventive educational industrial complex is devising innovative new ways to keep impertinent students in line. Not surprisingly, their tactics are focusing on sexting and social networking.
In one recent case, a high school student in Mississippi is suing her local school district after a teacher logged into the student’s Facebook account and distributed information that embarrassed her and led to her removal from the cheerleading team.
On Sept. 10, 2007, Pearl High School cheerleading coach Tommie Hill required each member of the cheerleading squad to reveal the passwords to their Facebook accounts, according to the suit.
Many of the students immediately deleted their accounts using their mobile phones, said Jackson’s attorney Rita Nahlik Silin. Jackson did not delete her account.
The suit alleges Hill later logged onto Jackson’s Facebook account and disseminated content — including private messages with another Pearl High School student — to other teachers, cheerleading coaches, and the principal and superintendent.
According to the suit, the officials “reprimanded, punished, and humiliated” Jackson for an exchange of profanity-laced messages between Jackson and the cheerleading captain in which Jackson asked the student to “stop harassing” several of the cheerleaders.
“I would have been completely fine with the school officials looking at my public [profile on] Facebook, but I think they went too far with getting my password and looking at my personal messages between me and my peers,” Jackson, 16, said in a message. “They were conversations between me and my friends so I shouldn’t have gotten in trouble for them.”
As a result of her private Facebook content, Jackson was not allowed to attend cheerleading practices, participate in football games or partake in school events for which she had already paid participation fees, according to the suit.
These kinds of tactics remind me of Brannum v. Overton County School Bd which was decided last year. In that case, middle school students brought a federal civil rights action against county school board members, the director of schools, and a school principal and assistant principal, alleging that they violated the students’ constitutional right to privacy by installing and operating video surveillance equipment in the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms at the school.
Our public educators’ rationalization of strip searching, sexting suppression, and social networking censorship–all detailed ad nausem on this blog–pale in comparison to the Overton education professionals’ justification for essentially producing and distributing child pornography.The following is taken directly from the Court of Appeals decision and is well worth your time:
In an effort to improve security at LMS, the Overton County School Board approved the installation of video surveillance equipment throughout the school building. The school board engaged the education technology firm, Edutech, Inc., to install cameras and monitoring equipment. The board ordered the Director of Schools, William Needham, to oversee the project. Needham delegated his authority for the installation of the monitoring equipment to the LMS Principal, Melinda Beatty, who delegated her authority to the Assistant Principal, Robert Jolley. None of the defendants promulgated any guidelines, written or otherwise, determining the number, location, or operation of the surveillance cameras.
After several meetings, Assistant Principal Jolley and an Edutech representative decided to install the cameras throughout the school in areas facing the exterior doors, in hallways leading to exterior doors, and in the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms. The cameras were installed and were operational by July 2002.
The images captured by the cameras were transmitted to a computer terminal in Jolley’s office where they were displayed and were stored on the computer’s hard drive. Jolley testified that, in September 2002, he discovered that the locker room cameras were videotaping areas in which students routinely dressed for athletic activities. He said that he immediately notified Principal Beatty of the situation and suggested that the placement of the cameras be changed. But, the cameras were not removed nor were their locations changed for the remainder of the fall semester.
In addition to Jolley receiving the images on his computer, they were also accessible via remote internet connection. Any person with access to the software username, password, and Internet Protocol (IP) address could access the stored images. Neither Jolley nor anyone else had ever changed the system password or username from its default setting. The record indicates that the system was accessed ninety-eight different times between July 12, 2002, and January 10, 2003, including through internet service providers located in Rock Hill, South Carolina; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Gainsboro, Tennessee.
During a girls’ basketball game at LMS on January 9, 2003, visiting team members from Allons Elementary School noticed the camera in the girls’ locker room and brought this to the attention of their coach, Kathy Carr. Carr questioned Principal Beatty, who assured Carr that the camera was not activated. In fact, the camera was activated and had recorded images of the Allons team members in their undergarments when they changed their clothes. After the game, Carr reported the camera incident to the Allons school principal, who contacted Defendant Needham later that evening. Needham immediately accessed the security system from his home and viewed the recorded images. The following morning, January 10, Needham, Beatty, and two other officials viewed the images in Needham’s office by remote access. Needham later stated that in his opinion, the videotapes of the 10 to 14 year old girls contained “nothing more than images of a few bras and panties.” School employees removed the locker room cameras later that day.
The Sixth Circuit allowed the students’ lawsuit to proceed against the principal and assistant principal holding that:
Some personal liberties are so fundamental to human dignity as to need no specific explication in our Constitution in order to ensure their protection against government invasion. Surreptitiously videotaping the plaintiffs in various states of undress is plainly among them. Stated differently, and more specifically, a person of ordinary common sense, to say nothing of professional school administrators, would know without need for specific instruction from a federal court, that teenagers have an inherent personal dignity, a sense of decency and self-respect, and a sensitivity about their bodily privacy that are at the core of their personal liberty and that are grossly offended by their being surreptitiously videotaped while changing their clothes in a school locker room. These notions of personal privacy are “clearly established” in that they inhere in all of us, particularly middle school teenagers, and are inherent in the privacy component of the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against unreasonable searches. But even if that were not self-evident, the cases we have discussed, supra, would lead a reasonable school administrator to conclude that the students’ constitutionally protected privacy right not to be surreptitiously videotaped while changing their clothes is judicially clearly established.
The question of whether teenage students themselves have a right to voluntarily give up their “inherent personal dignity, sense of decency and self-respect, and sensitivity about their bodily privacy” by sexting naked images of themselves into cyberspace has yet to be answered. I think it’s safe to assume that right or no right, whether it’s on Facebook, MySpace or a cell phone, inquiring school administrators will still want to know.