$70K settlement from Minnesota school over Facebook post

(WCCO/CNN) –A Facebook post that landed a Minnesota teen in big trouble with school administrators is now paying off to the tune of 70-thousand dollars.

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 fifteen, but a seasoned attorney says he’s learned from her.

Wally 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,” Hilke said.

Riley says her mother 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 70,000-dollars 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,” Hilke said.

Greg Schmidt, the district’s new superintendent, told us 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,” Schmidt 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,” Hilke said.

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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