Posted November 3, 2009 10:20 am by with 7 comments

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In recent interviews, I’ve talked about the future of online reputation management. In that future, I see a desensitizing towards negative content found online by employers, parents, and schools. In essence, as more and more of us post content online, any embarrassing photo or rude remark will be brushed off, as we learn that we live in a transparent world. As the current generation of 18-24 year olds enter management, they will be more forgiving–having lived through that same era.

Anyway, I expected this transformation of standards to take place slowly and organically. Well, that may change now that two sophomore girls are suing their school district for unfairly disciplining them for risqué photos they posted to MySpace.

The Huffington Post picks up the story:

The girls, identified only by their initials in the suit, took the photos during a sleepover with friends before school started this summer and posted them on their MySpace pages, setting the privacy controls so only those designated as friends could view them…[the Principal] initially suspended both girls from all extracurricular activities for the year but reduced the penalty to 25 percent of fall semester activities after the girls completed three counseling sessions and apologized to the coaches board.

The school wasn’t referenced in any of the MySpace entries, but the school has a policy that allows the Principal to take action against any student that “creates a disruptive influence on the discipline, good order, moral or educational environment” of the school.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken interest in this case and filed the suit on behalf of the girls–claiming the action violates their free speech rights and was humiliating. The ACLU will have an uphill battle winning this case, because the US Supreme Court has already ruled that students can be disciplined for activities outside of the school. The unclear part is whether the students’ actions are disruptive or harmful to the school.

We’ll let you know as and when we see updates on this case. My guess is that it will be dropped–maybe with the school expunging the incident from the girls’ records. If not, and the ACLU wins, we may quickly get to the era of online reputation apathy–but by force, not progress.


  • They got suspended for doing something BEFORE school started? That’s crazy

    Also, if they had their privacy controls then I would sue the school for invading their privacy!

    • I believe someone else sent the photos to the school. It goes to show that marking something as “private” is absolutely pointless, if you then post it to the web.

  • Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. More and more cases like this are being seen around the world, whether it’s airline staff being fired for bitching about clients, or a case here in the UK where the head of the Secret Service had his cover blown by his wife’s Facebook status.

    Andy, you’ve got it spot on. Nothing is private online.

  • Tim

    I wonder how the parents are dealing with this? Did they brush it off as “kids being kids”? I could give two rips about the privacy laws, it would be my daughter’s behavior that I was most concerned about.

    From the quote in your post -> [the Principle] initially suspended both girls…

    The principal is always your ‘pal’ 😉

    • It sure is. I had it correct the other time I used it. Thanks!

  • I don’t have an opinion on whether the school took inappropriate action, but people need to understand that what they do online can affect many things in their offline lives — and the schools are starting to recognize that students may harm themselves in ways they cannot understand by posting these images online.

    High school kids are not yet mature or experienced enough to make all their own decisions. That’s why they are still living with their parents or guardians.

    And God help the next generation if 18-24 years really do turn a blind eye toward this stuff — they don’t have enough experience to know what lies down the road, either.
    .-= Michael Martinez´s last blog ..Using Blogger for SEO =-.

  • Annja

    It shouldnt be up to the school to punish the girls. The girls parents should be the ones to punish there children. I dont think the schools have birth to them so I dont think they should be the ones to punish them