Teens Sue School After Being Disciplined For MySpace Photos

from the no-free-speech-until-you-graduate? dept

We’ve seen a bunch of stories lately about schools handing out discipline for activities done online, and conflicting court cases on the subject make it fairly unclear where a school’s authority to discipline students ends. In the latest case, two sophomore high school girls posted private photos to their MySpace accounts from a sleepover. The photos are described as “racy.” While they were set to private, someone copied them, and eventually school administrators saw them and banned the girls from extracurricular activities for a while and also required that the two girls apologize to the (all male) coaches’ board. It also required the girls to undergo therapy sessions. All this because they posted some silly photos online? Beyond the question of whether or not the school even has the right to discipline these students for events that had nothing (at all) to do with the school, the punishment also seems to go well beyond the “crime.” Kids do silly/stupid things all the time. And, yes, these days there are cameraphones and social networks that make these things easier to record and distribute, but it doesn’t change the fact that kids are kids. I doubt there are many adults out there today who didn’t do something silly or stupid as a teen. For those of you who are a bit older, imagine if cameraphones and social networks had been around then? Would you have wanted to have been suspended from school activities? The whole thing seems like a huge overreaction.

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Comments on “Teens Sue School After Being Disciplined For MySpace Photos”

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PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“In the photos, the girls wore lingerie and pretended to lick a penis-shaped lollipop.”

Hence, why other people feel the need to pick up the slack.

Still, if it didn’t happen on-campus, the school should butt out. If the pictures are being passed around the school, they should punish whoever brought the picture to school and/or whoever published a photo marked “private”.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Hence, why other people feel the need to pick up the slack”

Now, see, this is where I start having a problem. That I may disagree with the parenting being done by others doesn’t mean that I should “pick up the slack.” Nor should anybody else, except in situations where there’s a clear and present danger, to borrow a phrase — and on the face of it, this is not one of those situations.

Telling the parents that I feel that they could do a better job, OK, if I’m really sure that there’s a need, but nothing more forceful than that. I don’t have the right to impose my own sensibilities on others like that, and I don’t think anyone else does either.

Zak Jones! says:


The fuck people have to think of the children. We high school students can think for ourselves, thanks.

I can’t believe the school thinks that they had any right to punish the students for something that has absolutely nothing to do with the school. It didn’t happen at the school or during school, How did the school even catch wind of the ‘racy’ photos?

I think the entire thing is absolutely ridiculous, and the school is wildly overstepping their jurisdiction in even *thinking* that they have *any* say in what students do outside of school.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

For at least the last twenty years, schools have been taking more and more of the responsibility for raising kids, and parents willingly handed over such responsibility as it freefd them up to pursue their own interests. It’s been general policy for years now that schools can and will regulate student behavior outside of school hours and off school grounds, ostensibly for the sake of preserving the school’s image and reputation.

I agree that this whole situation is infuriating, but it’s only ridiculous if you haven’t been paying attention to the trend, and it’s only over-stepping it’s juristiction if you admit that is is NOT the job of the school (or teacher) to raise these kids. More and more, that’s not something a lot of people are willing to admit, ask these kids spend less and less time interacting with their relatives. Parents aren’t parenting their kids, so if the schools don’t who’s left?

The really frightening thing, though, is that in this case a lot of people are going to see “young girls pantomiming sex acts” and they’ll agree that the girls should be punished for such behavior. But what about when schools start punishing kids for other behaviors which may not be so generally unacceptable? The way things are going, parents won’t be ABLE to take responsibility for raising their kids, because they’ll have lost all control.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The really frightening thing, though, is that in this case a lot of people are going to see “young girls pantomiming sex acts” and they’ll agree that the girls should be punished for such behavior.

What is even more amusing is that performing the ACTUAL acts, and getting pregnant, results in absolutely no punishment or negative consequence from the schools at all. I’m not saying whether it should or should not, just pointing out the fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What is even more amusing is that performing the ACTUAL acts, and getting pregnant, results in absolutely no punishment or negative consequence from the schools at all. I’m not saying whether it should or should not, just pointing out the fact.

It does if they distribute pictures of themselves doing it. “Just pointing out the fact.”

Anonymous Coward says:

At my former HS, they made every student that wanted to participate in any school sport/club/extracurricular activity sign this ridiculous policy that basically gave the school the “right” to kick you off/out of the activity for anything you did that violated “school policy”…at any time…in any place.

Mike says:

Re: Re:

I completely agree with the sentiments of the article, and it’s a sad indication of how government is growing even more prevalent in our private lives. That said since no one’s done squat about this you can hardly start complaining now. For decades now we’ve been letting schools raise our children and now we’re surprised that schools are taking the mommy/daddy act outside of the building?

I blame parents for not banding together to stop b/s like this from happens. I also blame them for the disturbing trends of young girls sexting and posting pictures of themselves on the internet. You can’t even use the excuse about not knowing about the internet anymore as most people having kids now have limited experience with the internet. At least enough to know that MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter are seen by millions of people. So perhaps it might be prudent to remind your lovely daughters and sons to not show their hot little ass off on MySpace…because that shit never really goes away.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree with you, except that I’d put more of the burden on society/the media for the sexualization of young girls. Sex sells, and they’ve been selling it for decades, to the point where girls quite easily learn that the only thing they have going for them is their bodies. Add to that insecurity and a need to be accepted, and sexting is really the only conclusion.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Smooth move.

banned the girls from extracurricular activities for a while

Seems to me they already have an extracurricular activity. 🙂


In the photos, the girls wore lingerie and pretended to lick a penis-shaped lollipop.

The true criminal is people who sell penis-shaped candies to children knowing full well those children are going to pretend to lick them. I’d be way more concerned if they actually licked said candy instead of just pretending. 😛

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

A couple of observations of this oddness:

Alright, let’s try that one again…

1. This is a public school, not a private/Catholic school, which I found REALLY odd. What authority does a public high school have regarding the mental health of a child in terms of actions taken OUTSIDE it’s walls? The only thing that’s even close is the involvement in suspected child abuse cases. But semi-lewd photos taken at a sleep over? Where does a public school district get the balls for mandatory therapy? And for what? Truly…what is the therapist supposed to say?

“Your body is a private thing. You shouldn’t be showing it to anyone. Nevermind all of the advertisements, TV shows, movies, and Disney teen singers grinding their vulva onto a pole. YOU need to be modest.”

2. Are they similarly disciplining the people (boys?) who went out of their way to distribute the photos around the school? Isn’t THAT the only reason the school even was brought into the picture? It’s not like any of this was done at the school, so even if they’re making the argument that they’re punishing because it’s causing a major distraction at the school….it was the DISTRIBUTORS that caused the distraction, no?

3. What the hell is the deal with making them apologize to an all male coaches board? And this is AFTER they are banned from sports? Was the point just to get them in front of a bunch of grown men to vocally discuss the fact that they took semi-lewd photos? That’s got to be borderline psychological ABUSE. Plus, God help me, but what was the boner factor on that Coaches Board?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: A couple of observations of this oddness:

“Especially since they probably all had copies of the pictures. After all, you have to see what it is you’re banning them for, right?”

Yes, you do have to see them. You have to study them, in fact. In a private room. At home. With all the lights off and a healthy supply of hand lotion…

Look, I know talk like that is disgusting, but REALLY what is the reason for the apology to the all male coach board? It just smacks of somebody getting their rocks off through a highly charged, naughty feeling activity couched in policy…

Anonymous Coward says:

The person that took the private pictures and made them public is the only one that deserves any kind of discipline. With all of the national stories about school shootings and cyberbullying stiring up fear its no wonder that the schools overreact. Seems like the school might be stuck, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so they err on the side of caution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

And you assume they did not want them to be seen… which is clearly not true: they did not want them to be seen by people they did not allow to see them. This is entirely different. In any case, who the girls wanted to see the pictures and who they did not want to see the pictures has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the school has any business getting involved in who the girls choose to let see the pictures.

Jason (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The person that took the private pictures and made them public is the only one that deserves any kind of discipline.”

Except that the offenders are probably avid Masnick fans and believe that once a picture is shared with them then they ought to be able to distribute it as they see fit.

Sorry, you don’t get to blame the distributors if you’re anti-copyright. Just sayin’.

Jacob says:

I was threatened expulsion my senior year because I posted a note to Facebook with an exact word for word retelling of an event that happened between some students and I in the parking lot (they waited for me by my truck).

Apparently the school district had just cleared the terms of a old racism lawsuit and they had to shut me up cause the people exerted racism against me. The line “As the principal I decide your rights, not the constitution” was the funniest part.

So yeah, administrators have the belief that they are God’s second hand (even above the parents) when it comes to students.

interval says:

Re: Re:

@Jacob: “I was threatened expulsion my senior year because I posted a note to Facebook…”

My senior year I had to hike down the street over to the university to use their time sharing system, if all the CRT terminals were taken I had to make do with a teletype terminal (think those old clunking things you always here in news room sets on movies.) And dodge the real students asking us for help with their cobol homework.

Facebook? Ha! Sure, we had facebook. It was the school bulletin board. And the bathroom walls.

viperfl (profile) says:

The schools are to blame

I did stupid things when I was a teenager. I look back and think how stupid it was. I never went to the extreme as some kids do today. It’s true kids will be kids and it’s the parent’s responsibility.

What I find hypocritical is schools teach kids everything about sex and then go after kids when they practice what the school teaches them. Schools teach kids about sex because as they say, “kids are going to do it anyways.” The schools are only adding fuel to the fire.

The school should of notified the parent’s of what the kids have done and let the parent’s handle it. Personal life and work/school life was always kept separate but you have a few who put them together.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What about the boys?

So when the boys practice or play sports and play shirts versus skins – do the boys not wearing shirts get disciplined too?
After all, thats public nudity if the rules are all the same.

Maybe you went to a “conservative” school that didn’t have “sex” education, but there are some basic anatomical differences between boys and girls of which you do not seem to be aware.

Nate (profile) says:

“conflicting court cases on the subject make it fairly unclear where a school’s authority to discipline students ends.”

To me, I think a school’s authority should end when there is not another link tied to the school with respect to an incident. To be more clear in this case, the school should be able to punish the girls if they took racy pictures on school ground and/or uploaded the pictures on MySpace during school hours. Anything outside school time and property should be a parenting(?) issue. I don’t know about private schools (I never went to one), but I suppose different rules could be applied.

Gary Boaz (profile) says:

suspending kids from extra curricular activities is ridiculous. those types of things are aimed to keep teenagers busy with constructive things rather than drugs drinking or god know what else. If i hadn’t have been suspended from those sorts of things because i didn’t have decent grades i probably would have saved my mother thousands on lawyers and been surrounded by kids that strive to do well. they might have rubbed off on me. its crazy. HELP THEM NOT PUNISH. PUNISHMENT MAKES MOST KIDS EVEN MORE REBELLIOUS

MonicaS (profile) says:

Very dumb!

This is dumb on so many levels, it could be its own platformer video game. First off, schools can do anything to punish a student for what they do out side of school grounds. Anymore then you could sue a teacher for being a bad teacher while at home. This is why we separate the different parts of our lives. So what I like to listen to loud music at home and annoy my neighbors, I don’t want to get laid off at work for it.

And I agree that the punishment did not fit the crime. Any reasonable parent would be filing some sort of lawsuit, if not to follow through with it, to at least send a message.

Monica S
Los Angeles Computer Repair

Anonymous Coward says:

The schools are responsible for sex education.

You hear lots of people talking about how awesome public school socialization is. This is the result.

These girls are simply doing what they learned. The school things it can play both sides by punishing behavior that they learned (unofficially) in school.

You can’t punish your way out of this situation. Punishment only makes the action seem more valid and real to the kids.

Jason (profile) says:

Well, it's tricky, isn't it?

Suspending the girls from school would be patently wrong. It’s outside their scope of authority.

HOWEVER, banning them from extracurricular activities? Yeah, there’s a basis for it, and it’s that as performers and/or competitors in those activities, these girls would be representatives of the school.

I think the school does have a right to say who they will and won’t allow to act as their representatives based upon what that person posts on the internet, especially material that calls their character into question.

Now did the school make the right call? Well, that’s tougher still because it’s hard to know if the girls really thought the photos were private or not. If it’s clear there was a big mistake here, then there’s not really a character issue and the school might want to reconsider.

If it’s clear that they intended the photos to spread or knew that it was likely, well it’s pretty hard for a school or (anyone else really) to want to be represented by stupid people.

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: Well, it's tricky, isn't it?

Apparently the MySpace page containing the photos was set to “private”, meaning that only approved friends could see them.

Looking back, it’s entirely logical to assume that some “friend” might take them and run with them, but they did have at least some expectation of privacy in the first place.

Jason (profile) says:

Re: Re: Well, it's tricky, isn't it?

I totally agree it’s possible. I’ve seen dumber. It’s just not likely, and it’s still pretty stupid.

So the question is, “Is it okay for a school to have truly stupid people represent them?”

I followed up by sending this question to over 1000 public school principles – oddly, none have responded.

Morals In Memphis says:

Can't have it both ways

These days the parents put so much responsiblilty on the teachers and school to raise their children. They are expected to make sure they behave properly, pass all classes, have perfect health, etc.

When I was in school, it was expected my parents would meet with me at the end of the school day to review my lessons and make sure I do my homework, address any issues, make sure I ate correctly and exercised.

With all of the pressure and responsibility on the school and none on the parents WHAT DO YOU EXPECT? When anything goes wrong with the child, blame the school. Columbine: bullies in the school. School’s fault.

Parents, teach your children not to simulate sex on any object and the school will never have to deal with this. Teach them not to simulate sex on camera is also a good thing.

bigpicture says:

Silly and Stupid things?

Well then just let them continue to do silly and stupid things in public. Maybe one day they will want to apply for a job, there are no “individuals rights” against NOT being hired. And prospective employers where the worth while jobs are never, never do any background checks. Right? So it does not matter what character defining information you have out there in public forums. Right?

Jason (profile) says:

Re: Re: Silly and Stupid things?

No, this is why it was a good thing for the school to do. The school really hasn’t done anything outside its ‘jurisdiction’.

The school’s authority to decide who will represent the school in clubs, sports, etc. based upon activities that take place outside of school is clearly enumerated. It’s also well founded.

AND it doesn’t violate free speech. They’ve drawn the line here: You can say whatever you want, but don’t expect to be our representative if you act like a dope.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Seems like a double standard.

Let me see if I have this right.

If the teenagers had engaged in sex, gotten pregnant and had abortions, they’d still be on the team, but a couple less than flattering pictures on a private social networking site and they are suspended?

If they had posted *pictures* of themselves engaging in sex, getting pregnant and then having abortions, I imagine they’d have also been off the team.

The point is, there is a difference between doing something and making pictures of yourself doing it (think: using the bathroom).

Anonymous Coward says:


I went to a friggin’ Catholic school in a conservative location. We routinely did stuff every bit at nutty.

I suppose we’re damn lucky the Internet didn’t exist and the worst that could happen in a Polaroid camera and photocopier.

I know exactly what would have happened, if the copies had shown up at school. Anyone caught distributing the images would have been in detention for weeks. Anyone caught making them would have been suspended. Anyone in the images would have had their parents called.

Public schools have always overreacted to such things. In the same way that lawsuits have destroyed any chance of an effective universal health care system in the US, they’ve also destroyed any chance of a world class public school system.

Next time you see a lawyer, be sure to thank them. Next time you *use* a lawyer remember, you are *part* of the problem.

Greg says:

This is screwed up.

Since when did schools gain the same rights as parents? If the parents see no reason to discipline the children than there is no reason for the children to be disciplined. As far as how the school administrators got a hold of them. Do these people go onto myspace and specifically look for the children that go to their school? If they don’t than can someone please explain to me how they would have found out about them? The only way these girls should have gotten is if the pictures were either taken at school or if they had done something with them at school such as, upload them, print them out or any of the other things that they could have done. But seeing as how most schools have site screening programs they should not have been capable of doing that in the first place. Not that they did do that. I just graduated a last year but still I remember back in elementary when all you ever heard about was how schools had to call the parents for pretty much every little thing. Even for the high school students. So I would like to know who gave the schools all this power, and when.

Mary says:

The school was offended,(whaa whaa) hand them a box of tissues. I become offended watching these day time soap operas suggesting who is sleeping with whom, and lifetime channel having a gay man on their commercials.so I don’t watch them. The school needs to educate students. What these girls have done was private. The school(s) everywhere are so concerned about discipline that they forgot how to teach. Like the constitution on our first amendment, freedom of speech.

metalmankam says:

WTF mate???

some of these comments are ridiculous.. The school administrators did all the wrong, not the students. The only people that should be disciplined are the school administrators. They have no right whatsoever to get that involved in a students life, let alone discipline them for something that has nothing to do with school at all. Whoever passed the pics around is a jerk, but none of this is the school’s business at all. If these students don’t win in court hell will break loose on that school. I don’t know what’s happening to this country.. this crap just blows me away. If they had to be disciplined by the school at all, therapy? Really? Like a picture showing some cleavage or whatever it was means they have mental problems? Daddy didn’t hug enough so they have to act sexy? MORONS!

j. wyatt (profile) says:

Who caused the disruption?

I think the 2nd poster had it right. The disruption clearly came from the person that distributed the pictures at school. It’s not any different than if they took a ‘Playboy’ to school and showed it around. The only difference is that the people in the pictures go to the school, so the principal had an easy target. And the whole appology to the coaches thing is clearly a power play on the school’s part. Why humilate the girls more? I’m pretty sure if I gave a crap about political correctness that I would call that harassment of a minor. It’s a clear example of a person in a position of authority abusing that power to manipulate a person with no power. Welcome to high school girls!

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