Students sue over pics

November 2, 2009
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Perhaps this suit can be a lesson to the generation growing up with MySpace, Facebook, and cell phones: What you post online can come back to haunt you.

Two high school sophomores in northern Indiana are suing their principal and the school corporation because they were suspended from some extracurricular activities and had to attend mental health counseling because of pictures posted on MySpace.

These two girls, and some other friends, put on lingerie, tucked dollar bills into their clothes, and posed with phallus-shaped lollipops because they thought it would be funny. It would be even funnier to post them online for all their MySpace “friends” to see.

Someone tipped off the school’s principal about the pictures, and he suspended them from some after-school activities, including athletics, and made them participate in three counseling sessions to lessen their punishment.

The principal has the authority to do this based on the school corporation’s code of conduct.

The students say the punishment for activity that happened outside of school and in no way identified the school violated their First Amendment rights. They want this to be a class action suit with the court entering a permanent injunction to prevent the principal from punishing students for out-of-school conduct and to expunge this incident from the plaintiffs’ records.

Do the students have a legitimate case against the school and principal when the school’s code of conduct says the principal has the authority to exclude any student-athlete if conduct out of school reflects poorly on the school? Can schools punish students for online posts when you can’t immediately tell which school the student is affiliated with?

Something else that jumped out in the suit: The students are now “extremely reluctant” to post pictures on their MySpace pages or share pictures, e-mails, or other communications with their friends because of fear that will lead to further punishment, even if they don’t interfere with the school. That’s a good thing. A lot of people, especially kids who don’t know a world without the Internet, don’t realize that posting questionable photos or comments online can come back to haunt you.

It’s one thing for a sophomore girl, who’s probably 15 when these photos were taken, to post a picture of her and her friends at a slumber party. It’s another thing when those pictures involve underage girls in lingerie and holding penis-shaped lollipops. Could that be considered child pornography?
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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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