Pearl student sues after teacher logs into student's Facebook account - - Jackson, MS

Pearl student sues after teacher logs into student's Facebook account

By Julie Straw - bio | email

Pearl, MS (WLBT) - Is it legal for a teacher or a boss to log into your personal social networking account?  One Pearl High School student doesn't think so and she's filed suit against the teacher and the school district in federal court.

When Mandi Jackson's Pearl High School cheerleading coach instructed all the girls on her squad to turn over their Facebook account names and passwords she didn't think she had a choice.

"Knowing that she was an authority figure I was like ok, I don't know what to do," said 16-year-old Jackson.

She never could imagine the fall out from that September 2007 decision.  Coach Tommie Hill had logged into Jackson's Facebook account.  The teacher read messages in the inbox between Jackson and another girl that were riddled with profanity.  For that, Jackson claims she was punished, ostracized and no longer allowed to compete in cheer competitions.

"Her identity was taken away from her and there's nothing they can do at this point to take back what she's be through," said Jackson's mother Missy.

Jackson and her parents got an attorney.  Last month they filed suit against Coach Hill, other high school staff and the school district for violating Jackson's constitutional rights to free speech, privacy and due process.

"The supreme court has found that internet media is supposed to be treated as magazine or book media is concerned," said Jackson's attorney Rita Silin.  "That's the crux of it. It was in a private email.  It wasn't in a public email that anyone can access."

A trial date in federal court has yet to be set.  Jackson is now a Junior at Pearl High and no longer on the cheerleading squad.  She hopes her upcoming battle in court will mean privacy for her peers.

"I want it all to get out.  I don't want anybody else to go through what I went through.  I mean it is brutal, especially high school.  It's brutal," said Jackson.

Pearl Public Schools Superintendent John Lander did not want to comment on the case. 

Attorney for Hill and the school district Arthur Jernigan would only say, "We're not going to try this case in the media."

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