ACLU: Facebook search violated student’s rights
EVERETT - The Everett School District is still investigating allegations that the assistant principal at North Middle School coerced a student into letting him see her Facebook page.
The assistant principal reportedly pressured eighth-grader Samantha Negrete, 14, into logging into her Facebook account. The incident happened in his office earlier this month. He wanted to see a photo one of her friends had posted. Negrete protested and asked why, but she complied out of fear, her parents told the media.
The assistant principal was put on administrative leave, but he is scheduled to return to work this week while the district continues its investigation, district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said late last week.
--The Tribune learned after our print deadline that the assistant principal has returned to work but has been temporarily transferred to Jackson High School.--
The investigation may be finished by next week, Waggoner said.
The district confirmed a cyberbullying incident had occurred at the school and is determining if the assistant principal’s actions were “incorrect,” she said. The investigation findings may result in anything from the assistant principal facing discipline to a review of district practices.
The assistant principal was put on temporary leave to separate him from the school, Waggoner said. She couldn’t say whether he accessed Negrete’s Facebook page.
Negrete had nothing to do with the incident the assistant principal was investigating. He was investigating a reported case of cyberbullying by another student and reportedly spent time looking through Negrete’s friends’ profiles and photos.
He then asked Negrete to keep the meeting a secret, said Linda Mangel, the education policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
Negrete, an honor roll student described as having an unblemished record, went home crying. Her parents alerted the Seattle ACLU office.
Mangel is working with Negrete’s mother Connie Becerra and stepfather Kevin McCollum on how to respond to the incident, but she declined to say whether the incident could lead to a lawsuit.
The assistant principal’s actions violated the state and U.S. constitutions, Mangel said.
An attorney provided by a statewide school district insurance risk pool is currently reviewing the matter, Waggoner said.
The school was investigating an incident involving a male student who took a cell phone picture on school grounds of another student and posted it on Facebook with a demeaning comment, the district attorney’s e-mail says.
Students are not allowed to use cell phones and other electronic devices on school grounds.
The male student may have been suspended, but Waggoner could not comment per student privacy rules.
An investigation “can only be as broad as necessary to gather information on the suspected behavior,” Mangel said. The fact-gathering process should have started with talking to the alleged victim of the Facebook post, she said, calling the assistant principal’s actions tantamount to a “fishing expedition.”
By telling Negrete to keep the incident a secret, “he knew he crossed a line,” she said.
Negrete’s world, meanwhile, has turned upside down, Mangel said.
“Kids are calling her a snitch and a tattletale,” Mangel said.
Other kids shouldn’t be blaming Negrete, who also is a victim in this case. They should be concerned about their rights at school, she said.
Negrete’s parents didn’t respond to further interview requests by press time.
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