Student wins $70K settlement from school over Facebook post

MINNEAPOLIS - A Facebook post that landed a Minnesota teen in big trouble with school administrators is now paying off to the tune of $70,000. And it was the school that had to fork over the cash.

In 2011, sixth grader Riley Stratton wrote on her Facebook page that she hated her teacher's aide. According to court papers, once word spread, the student was forced to turn over her Facebook and email account information to administrators, and according to Riley's attorney, that's when her rights were violated.

She's just 15-years-old, but a seasoned attorney says he's learned from her.

"Riley's a hero to me, it's really quite a brave thing she's done," said Wally Hilke.

Hilke and the ACLU took her case after riley spoke out about how a Facebook post got her in trouble.

"It was very upsetting to her, for days she couldn't return to school and she lost a tremendous amount of trust in adults through this process," said Hilke.

Riley says her moms didn't know she was forced to turn over her passwords. The district insists they did ask her parents' permission, but still agreed to pay the $70,000 in a settlement.

"The takeaway is parents should be policing their kids social media when they're off campus, school administrators shouldn't be policing kids social media use," said Hilke.

"It was certainly never the district's intention to put the family at an extreme disadvantage," said the district's new Superintendent Greg Schmidt.

Schmidt told WCCO-TV over the phone they'll do things differently.

"Be much more cautious about punishing people about things they say off campus outside of school time," he said.

Hilke is hoping schools around the country will follow suit. He says outside of school, if it's not disruptive, kids can say what they want even if it is online, and it shouldn't be on their record.

"Educators can be involved in the lives of young people, they can look out for the lives of young people, they just can't punish them for exercising their constitutional rights," said Hilke.

Riley is now being home schooled. In a statement she said it was embarrassing and hard to go through but she hopes schools all over take note and don't punish students the way she was punished.


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