Tuesday, November 3, 2009

School space vs. MySpace

Facebook and MySpace are challenging schools struggling to respond to new technology. Some are responding badly.
Churubusco High School is a prime example. Administrators there interfered in what was not a school matter and now find themselves as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges the Smith-Green Community School Corp. and Principal Austin Couch violated the First Amendment rights of two female students.
The girls, identified only by initials, were part of a sleepover last summer attended by other students from Churubusco High School, according to the suit. At the event, they took pictures of themselves “pretending to kiss or lick a large multi-colored novelty phallus-shaped lollipop.” In other photos they were dressed in lingerie with dollar bills tucked into their clothing. They posted the photos on their MySpace pages, which can be accessed only by the friends they select.
Someone with access to the photos, however, downloaded them and gave them to the principal and other school employees.
Couch suspended the two girls from all athletic and extracurricular activities for the year, according to court documents.
When their parents appealed the decision, he gave the students the option to reduce their punishment by 25 percent if they would submit to three counseling sessions and apologize individually to the coaches for which all of whom are men.
The girls submitted to the counseling sessions, and the reports were turned over to the principal.
“The forced counseling was humiliating to the plaintiffs, and being forced to appear before the coaches to apologize for their intended humorous photographs … was profoundly embarrassing,” the lawsuit states.

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