Student Sues School For Privacy Invasion After School Found Nude Photos On Her Phone

from the the-case-that-keeps-on-giving dept

You may recall the news story from last year about some teenaged girls in Pennsylvania who were being threatened with child porn charges, after taking "nude and semi-nude" photos of themselves on a mobile phone during a party, and sending them to others. The judge halted the potential lawsuit, noting that the nude photos didn't appear to depict any sexual acts (as per the law), but the local prosecutor still wanted to file charges. As more and more details came out, the whole thing got increasingly ridiculous. Apparently, the girls in question were given a choice to either take a "re-education" class, or face charges.

And now, reader Pickle Monger points out that one of the girls, along with the ACLU, is suing the school district itself, claiming that it violated the girl's privacy. Apparently, the way the school found out about the photos was that it had confiscated her mobile phone, after she was caught making a phone call on school grounds, against school rules. There's no problem with confiscating the phone, of course, but then the school searched through the phone and found those photos. It's the search that the ACLU and the student are questioning. The school had no reason to search through the phone, or to look at the photos stored on the phone after it had confiscated it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 12:59pm

    This is great and awesome.

    I have long been concerned about the tyrannical situations that our school children have to deal with, day after day. There have been a few cases that generated publicity, but they've been too few and far-between to affect any real change on a large level.

    Hopefully, with all of the publicity that these recent cases have gotten, people will start paying attention to what's going on in our public schools.

    Adults would never stand for the level of scrutiny and illegal behavior that these children are forced to deal with.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Poster, May 24th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    Re:

    "This is great and awesome."

    I agree.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    senshikaze (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 1:57pm

    Re:

    you don't work for a paranoid ceo. people at my job have to deal with it daily.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    You know, at one place I worked at a while ago there was a lost phone. In order to try and return it we tried to look through the numbers on that phone to see if we can perhaps call someone who knew the owner. Is that an invasion of privacy? What are the legal dynamics of that?

     

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  5.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re:

    You can choose to take a different job. Children can't choose to attend different schools.

    Further, schools are government institutions. Assuming that you live in America, how would you feel if you were treated like a school child is today when you enter a government office?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    The Baker, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Lost Phone

    Hmm ... Perhaps when you called Mr. Job's number he already had his secret police triangulating on you. Did you see any black SUVs or hear a helicopter right afterword?
    Be afraid ... Be very afraid

     

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  7.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Re: This is great and awesome.

    "Hopefully, with all of the publicity that these recent cases have gotten, people will start paying attention to what's going on in our public schools."

    Im in the area of Lower Merion. I had a user come in and we were talking about what had happened, and her concern was that her taxes would go up. She has a daughter in 12th grade. She said, "Aww, all they will see if they looked, was my girls confused look as she tried to figure out her homework." Then went on to complain about taxes, and how it looked. Forget the possibility some scumbag tech could have seen her naked, or those photos could some day appear on the internet... She was more concerned about prestige, and money. This is a typical attitude for the area. Very stuck up.

    "Adults would never stand for the level of scrutiny and illegal behavior that these children are forced to deal with."
    I am not so optimistic. PPL will put up with an amazing amount of crap. The past 10 years has shown that. LOL.

    Have a good day Rose.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    IANAL but my guess would be that with the school there was no reason to look through the phone. Looking at anything was a potential privacy invasion. You had a clear reason to be looking through the phone, to determine the identity of the owner, so you should be fine if it ever happens again.

    Now if you look through the contacts and then copy them and publish them and copy the photos and publish them too, you might get in trouble, so don't do that :-p

    On another note ... I assume the school copied the photos off of her phone, so copyright violation as well? but she'd have to register the copyright first?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re:

    yes, but they employees sign some form of a waiver i'm sure. i don't think school children get that chance seeing as they are minors and cannot legally do that. i guess you could say that the agreement of the parents is implicit since they choose to send their children to a public school. but i'm sure there are privacy laws for just this kind of reason...

     

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  10.  
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    CJ, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    Re:

    In order to try and return it we tried to look through the numbers on that phone to see if we can perhaps call someone who knew the owner. Is that an invasion of privacy? What are the legal dynamics of that?


    Did you also look through the phone's private photos and send them to other people? I think there's a huge difference between looking through a phone's contact list to try to report it missing and going through personal photos or text messages no doubt looking for something salacious or punishable. There's also more to the suit than just the principal's actions, apparently there are multiple copies of the photos floating around after it was sent to the police and its labs and the detective who was put in charge of the case when the principal decided to send the photos to the police told the girl that she should have waited a couple months until she was 18 and sold the photos to Playboy and winked at ther as well as some other pervy and beyond inappropriate things.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    So, wouldn't the school district be in receipt of child porn?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:35pm

    dont ya love mondays and @6

    sets the tone for the rest for the week, wonder were kiddy pron charges laid?

    Perhaps Mister Jobs was looking at the photos....

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Unauthorized Computer Access

    Considering that phone is digital computing device, didn't the school also violate the criminal laws against "unauthorized computer access"?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    RD, May 24th, 2010 @ 2:53pm

    Sex and Nudity

    "The judge halted the potential lawsuit, noting that the nude photos didn't appear to depict any sexual acts (as per the law), but the local prosecutor still wanted to file charges."

    Thats because in our new, shiny, 21st century world of Political Correctness run amok, nudity in ANY form equals sexual deviance. Remember, people get prosecuted now for having nude pics of their OWN children in, say, a bathtub. I have one of me (no genetalia showing tho) from when I was about 5. Should I be hauled off to jail as a "child pornographer"? The answer today is YES! Of course I should, dont be stupid. Nudity=sexual acts for these purposes. The fact that its a pic OF MYSELF also wouldnt matter, since its a NUDE of a CHILD and therefore illegal. These overzealous prosecutors and moral crusaders twist not only the law, but common sense, in their puritanical zeal to stamp out ANY hint of nudity or sex at any level of society.

     

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  15.  
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    Don Bear Wilkinson (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 2:57pm

    returning a lost cellphone

    Um, you can call the company that operates the cellphone. They will collect the unique ID number off the phone, look up the owner and contact them.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:13pm

    Re: returning a lost cellphone

    Wow, I never thought of that. Thanks.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Jail 'em, Jail 'em NOW

    Arrest and prosecute the person or persons who invaded the child's privacy. THEY are potentially guilty of possession of child pornography.

     

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  18.  
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    John, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Look around...this isn't the economy for jumping to a new job at the drop of a hat...because you aren't happy with your treatment.

    Fact, the girl was breaking the rules AND she was behaving badly. If she had not done both of them, this wouldn't even be an issue. She shouldn't be suing, she should be spanked, have her phone taken away and taught proper manners.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:20pm

    Re: returning a lost cellphone

    Wait, how would I know the cell phone company of someone else's phone?

     

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  20.  
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    Clark Cox (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Re:

    "but she'd have to register the copyright first?"

    Nope. There is no need to "register" copyright. You have it implicitly, the moment you created the work (i.e. took the photo).

     

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  21.  
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    vyvyan, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Jail 'em, Jail 'em NOW

    Jail 'em? Hang 'em!

    Remember "Child porn is the gateway to Parliament."

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    And people question encrypting everything behind the pounding mantra of "but I don't have anything to hide"...

     

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  23.  
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    lOgic ErrOr, May 24th, 2010 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: returning a lost cellphone

    it's usally on the phone, a little label, but if the phone is unlocked that cant really help you,

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 4:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'd spank her.

     

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  25.  
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    Bengie, May 24th, 2010 @ 4:04pm

    Re:

    you're suppose to return the cell phone to a local cell company

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Re: Sex and Nudity

    I misread the phrase "in their puritanical zeal" as "in their prurient zeal" and then realized that is exactly what is happening.

    Like the guy viewing the Rorschach blots: How can you say I have a dirty mind, Doc? You're the one with the dirty pictures.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Look around...this isn't the economy for jumping to a new job at the drop of a hat...because you aren't happy with your treatment."

    That's irrelevant.

    First, just because YOU put up with it does not mean that anyone else should.

    Second, you can still find a new job. It might be hard and it might be a shitty job, but you have the option of leaving if nothing else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 4:49pm

    Not to necesarrily take the schools side here, but I'm not sure that there was enough info in this article to form a rational opinion as to whether or not they should have gone through the phone. I can envision a scenario where the adult confiscating the phone overheard conversation that was potentially dangerous to the girl or another minor. Yes, it is thin, but I really hate to come to conclusions without information.

     

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  29.  
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    DJ (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's an entirely new ball of wax. Let's not open that one today. plz?

     

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  30.  
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    DJ (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 5:08pm

    Re: returning a lost cellphone

    I once lost my phone and didn't know it. I found out because someone looked at my most called list and called.
    I was GRATEFUL!!
    Now get off your high horses

     

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  31.  
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    DJ (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 5:19pm

    Re:

    I agree...to a point. I know that there are many schools, both public and private, whose charters specifically state that they are allowed to do searches like that; naturally, the parents are required to sign something saying that they've read this.
    There are a lot of unknowns -- at least as far as the general public goes -- in this case.

     

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  32.  
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    Spanky, May 24th, 2010 @ 6:13pm

    re

    I've actually been thru "reeducation". I don't remember what happened. Something about a rat. And the number 101. But I'm much better now, and ready to take my place in society. In society. in society.

    You can look thru a phone to find identity information without looking for photos, texts, etc. If you look at photos and texts, your prying.

    And @DJ - I'll get down off my high horse when *I* choose to. If you think you can tell me to, I got an ass you can blow it out.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Cipher, May 24th, 2010 @ 6:25pm

    Re:

    I can envision a scenario where the adult confiscating the phone overheard conversation that was potentially dangerous to the girl or another minor.
    Wouldn't the police be the proper group to do that investigation rather than the school?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Re:

    You can also wait for them to notice, and call their own telephone, although that's problematic for a number of reasons...

     

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  35.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

    Re:

    Then they should tell the parent, or the police, as appropriate.

    A school is not a proper substitute for either of those things, as much as they think they are or should be.

     

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  36.  
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    Furball, May 24th, 2010 @ 7:52pm

    Think of the children.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 8:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You cannot sign away your rights in the US. Sorry.

     

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  38.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 9:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    no, the fact is that while the school may have the right to confiscate a cell phone, that does not give them the right to go through the contents of the phone.

    aside from that, its not the schools place to lay down any sort of discipline in response to something like this. notify the parents? sure. notify law enforcement? id even buy that... but schools are educational facilities, not law enforcement agencies.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Gordon, May 24th, 2010 @ 9:59pm

    You're all missing the point here.

    As a father of two teenage girls, I'd be pissed if their school went through their phones for any reason except as some have said here(lost phone found, going in to contacts to call someone who might know the owner).

    If in fact like the post says (confiscated directly from the student for making a call on school property, which is against the rules), they already KNOW who the owner is and are simply taking it for the day. They in fact have NO reason to go through it.

    If like one poster said, the teacher overheard something in the conversation that they were concerned about, call the parents of police and again....NO reason to go through the phone. That's the parents job. There is a lil ol thing in the constitution against illegal searches and seizures. Just because the student is on school property and thus under their rules, does not give the school free reign to do exactly that.

    My 2 pennies.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Gordon, May 24th, 2010 @ 10:01pm

    Re: You're all missing the point here.

    .....parents OR police.....

    stupid tired fingers.

     

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  41.  
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    Koder Kev (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 10:19pm

    Security

    And that, my friends, is why we have such things as PIN codes to lock our phones. Hardly anyone uses them. They "take too much time" or "they irritate me." Better a moment of inconvenience than giving access to anyone that picks up your phone.

    Folks, we're in the Information Age. That means information = power. The more of your own info you keep to yourself, the happier (and safer) you will be. If you don't use a PIN code, set one now. Here's hoping you keep all your data safe.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2010 @ 10:43pm

    Re: Sex and Nudity

    for once you are correct. usc 18 section 2256 and 2257 pretty much define all sorts of rules for pornography, including defining what is sexual material. recent changes (last few years) to those laws include non-sexual displays. in this case, the judge got it very wrong indeed, especially the boys who did truly possess nude images of minors. those same images posted widely on the internet would absolutely be child porn.

     

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  43.  
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    Dawger (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 11:40pm

    School Administrators

     

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  44.  
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    Dawger (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 11:45pm

    School Administrators

    I remember reading a study back in the 90s that concluded that the average public school administrator was more strict in enforcing rules than a prison warden. I believe it they go to far on a continual basis. It makes one wonder about the mindset of our school teachers and principals.

     

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  45.  
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    kirillian (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re:

    since it was confiscated, shouldn't there be a reasonable assumption that the administration should have known its owner?

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2010 @ 8:08am

    Re:

    Just wait until it rings, then answer it and ask who they were calling. Bingo presto answer. No search needed.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    AJB, May 25th, 2010 @ 9:27am

    Parental ConcernS

    So the parents are going to bat for their child who is taking and sharing naked pictures? In my day, they would have punished me, not gone to court to publicize the fact their daughter has no morals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    > You cannot sign away your rights in the US.

    Sure you can. It's perfectly legal and people do it all the time.

    You have a right to be free against warrantless searches of your home and belongings by the police but you can waive that right and allow the cops to search your house even if they don't have a warrant.

    You have a right not to testify against yourself but you can waive that right and sign a confession or take the stand at trial.

    You have a right to an attorney but you can waive that right and proceed without one.

    You have a right to free speech but you can waive that right in exchange for money or something of value.

    The only right the courts have deemed unwaivable is the prohibition against slavery.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 25th, 2010 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Re: returning a lost cellphone

    I do. Their number is 611.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
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    Vanye (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 5:34am

    Re: Re: returning a lost cellphone

    You could also just call your own phone and see what name comes up on the caller ID...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
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    Vanye (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 5:38am

    Re: Parental ConcernS

    And for all we know, that is what is going on, in private, where it belongs. However, in public, they are going after the school, which violated their daughters right to privacy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    Txknight (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 10:34pm

    schools have in loco parentis, they act as parents during school, it isn't a violation of the law if the mother/father go thru it, therefore not a violation if the school does it, this will have to be figured out by the court to establish boundaries/guidelines etc...

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    gogo, May 31st, 2010 @ 12:00am

    well the girl is a little w***e but regardless she has the right to have on her phone whatever pics she wants, and the school should defend her if someone is looking at/using her pictures against her..and not look for them and punish her. that's smth her parents should talk to her about. remember privacy and every man's right (and freedom) to pursue happiness?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    OMAYO, Nov 20th, 2011 @ 1:46am

    THE PICKS

    YOUR STORIES ARE GOOD

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    carson, Jan 8th, 2012 @ 6:33pm

    damn right they are goin to court. Now a days our children home life and privacy is being invaded by the teachers. I know
    of a school that does that all the time. whenstudents complain
    the teachers merey explain how they are in the right even tho they arent. we are teaching children not to question authority
    even tho their authority are fucking dirt bag over powered jerks.

    schools can now even acces students face book without student consent and read convos. Even the off school problems are being handled at school. THE SCHOOL KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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