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Court Upholds Teen Girls' Right To Post Racy Photos Of Themselves Online

Posted by on Aug. 17, 2011 at 3:50 PM
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Back in 2009, some teen girls in Indiana had a sleepover that lived up to any teen boy’s fantasy version of one. After racy photos from the summer slumber party made their way to the principal’s office, two of the athletes in attendance were suspended from school sports for the year. That’s, like, totally unfair, said the ACLU, who helped the students sue the school, alleging violation of their First Amendment right to post slutty photos of themselves online.

The girls took photos of themselves ‘playing’ with “phallic-shaped rainbow colored lollipops,” in the court’s words. It sounds like the oh-so-innocentunicorn horn lollipop to me. Though unicorns are usually associated with purity and virginity, these girls took the horn in a different direction, using it in photo shoots that simulated various sexual positions. I’ll leave the descriptions to the court, which wrote one of the racieropinions [pdf] I’ve ever come across (via Technology and Marketing Blog):

During the first sleepover, the girls took a number of photographs of themselves sucking on the lollipops. In one, three girls are pictured and M.K. [a plaintiff] added the caption “Wanna suck on my c**k.” In another photograph, a fully-clothed M.K. is sucking on one lollipop while another lollipop is positioned between her legs and a fully-clothed T.V. [the second plaintiff] is pretending to suck on it…

The opinion goes on like that for a while. The judge seemed to be enjoying a brief stab at erotic writing.  The girls, whose identities have not since been outed, unwisely posted the scandalous unicorn-horn-porn photos to MySpace and Facebook.

One of their so-called “friends” printed the photos out and gave them to the principal of Churubusco High School. Though the photos were taken over the summer at a non-school activity, the principal decided the girls had violated the school’s code of conduct, and suspended them from all extracurricular activities for the entire school year, meaning no volleyball and no cheerleading for the two athletes. A court says the principal was wrong to punish the ladies for publicizing their blow pop photos…

A court agrees with the ACLU about the photos constituting speech that should be protected, though the judge wasn’t very impressed with what the ladies had to say. “Not much good takes place at slumber parties for high school kids, and this case proves the point,” writes Judge Philip Smith. (Objection: Overbroad! Not all slumber parties are sex photo shoots.) “The speech in this case doesn’t exactly call to mind high-minded civic discourse about current events… I wish the case involved more important and worthwhile speech on the part of the students, but then of course a school’s well-intentioned but unconstitutional punishment of that speech would be all the more regrettable.”

The court ruled that it’s unconstitutional for schools to “discipline [students] for out of school conduct that brings ‘dishonor’ or ‘discredit’ upon the school.”

It’s nice to see the courts upholding students’ right to free speech, whatever its form, but I do hope these girls remember that things like this put on the Internet — while it may be good for their dating lives in the short term — could hurt their employment and educational opportunities in the long term, thanks to employers’ and colleges’ tendency to mine social media on applicants.

Rather than suspending kids like this in the future, this principal should look to the lesson book at this Connecticut school, which demonstrated to its students how easy it was for school administrators to see what they were posting by putting photos up during a school assembly. Showing works better than telling.

“Kudos to the judge for recognizing that these photos have significant speech implications, however questionable their wisdom or taste,” writes tech lawyerEric Goldman.

The right to bear unicorn horn lollipops can now go into the history books along with students’ right to wear anti-war arm bands. Yay.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2011/08/16/court-upholds-teen-girls-right-to-post-racy-photos-of-themselves-online/2/

by on Aug. 17, 2011 at 3:50 PM
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