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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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