Foxnews.com is reporting that the parents of two high school cheerleaders are suing the girls’ school district after the students were suspended for causing nude pictures of themselves to be sent around the school by text message. The sending of the pictures appears to be at least somewhat inadvertent, and according to the students’ attorney the dispute is not so much that the girls were disciplined but rather the dispute is with the manner in which they were disciplined.
The case illustrates two important points.
First, text message photo cases are not going away any time soon. Districts need to be careful when addressing situations involving inappropriate pictures, of all kinds, that are sent by text message on cell phones. Although the Fox News article does not mention it, a common issue in cases like these is whether or not the school has any ability to discipline students for activity (like taking or distributing cell phone pictures) that takes place outside of school. Be careful and consult counsel before taking action.
Second, due process is very important in investigating and punishing wrongdoing. One of the students’ allegations, according to the article, is that the district violated the students’ due process by making the pictures available to more school personnel than necessary to investigate the incident. Obviously, I do not know the detail of the process involved here, since we have this article for now, but the case makes clear that school districts must be careful to use the proper procedures to investigate and reprimand, or the student may prevail even if he or she ultimately did violate a rule or policy. Again, seek proper counsel before and during such discipline.