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Girls, ACLU Sue School Over Punishment for Racy MySpace Photos

Two teenage Indiana girls have sued their high school after the administration punished them for posting sexually suggestive photos of themselves on MySpace, the Associated Press reports. The ACLU, which is representing the two sophomores, argues that the school overstepped its bounds by handing down the punishment and, in so doing, violated the girls' rights to free speech. Attorneys with the ACLU also pointed out that the photos didn't involve the school, and that officials needlessly humiliated the two by making them apologize to an all-male board of coaches. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that schools do have the right to punish students for off-campus behavior, so long as the school can justify that the behavior was disruptive and that similar activities were likely to occur at the school, itself.

In this particular case, the girls took photos during a sleepover held during their summer vacation and posted them on MySpace, adjusting the privacy settings so that only their friends could see them. Eventually, though, the photos circulated throughout the school, and, as some of them showed the lingerie-clad girls licking a phallic lollipop, Principal Austin Couch banned the girls from fall sports, and made them apologize and undergo counseling. According to Couch's attorney, he was simply enforcing the school's athletic code, which allows a principal to punish student athletes for any activity that "creates a disruptive influence on the discipline, good order, moral or educational environment at Churubusco High School."

Sure, there's a precedent for schools punishing kids for online behavior (and a precedent for the ACLU rushing to students' aid). At first glance, though, we've gotta side with the girls on this. Was it a smart move? No. Did the photos cause a "disruption?" Probably -- at least via the gossip and hallway conversation they surely inspired. But is that kind of disruption really all that different from kids' passing notes or texting during class? All that aside, we don't really see their behavior as having the potential to eventually make its way to the school, as the Supreme Court says it must in order to warrant punishment. Schools definitely have a responsibility to legislate off-campus activity, including online activity -- but only, in our opinion, if it poses a serious threat. If the girls had phallic lollipops and shotguns in their hands, that would be a different story. Based on what we know, though, we think the administration should cut them some slack. [From: Associated Press/Newsvine]

Tags: aclu, facebookfaceloss, law, lawsuit, myspace, school, teens, top



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