Two Indiana teenagers are suing their school, after being punished for posting what were supposed to be private, suggestive photos to their MySpace pages.
According to court documents, the tenth graders at Churubusco High School in Churubusco, Indiana took the photos during a slumber party. The girls were photographed “pretending to kiss or lick a large multi-colored lollipop shaped phallus.” Other pictures showed them in lingerie with dollar bills tucked into the underwear.
The way MySpace works, only friends of the girls were supposed to be able to see the photos. But someone copied them, and they eventually found their way to the principal.
Their punishment was a ban during the fall semester from participating in extracurricular and sports activities. According to the school’s student handbook, the principal “may exclude any student-athlete from representing Churubusco High School if his/her conduct in or out of school reflects discredit” upon the school or creates a “disruptive influence on the discipline, good order, moral, or educational environment” at the school.
The girls had to attend three counseling sessions, as well as apologize to the all-male Atheltics Board, which is made up of the school's varsity coaches.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed the proposed class-action suit on behalf of the girls and all present and future students at the school who participate or may participate in extracurricular activities. The ACLU argues the district violated the girls’ First Amendment rights and should not have punished them for activities conducted outside school.
The ACLU says the photos were meant to be a joke shared among friends and had “no effect on the school whatsoever.” The girls’ self-expression has been curbed as a result of the school’s activity, the suit alleges. They’ve since become afraid to post any photos or otherwise communicate in writing to friends for fear of garnering additional punishment.
Whether or not the punishment is fair, this is another case that should serve as a warning to everyone -- don't assume anything you post on a social networking site is private. A good rule of thumb is this -- if you don't want the entire world to see this photo or learn this information, do not post it.