In Scranton, PA, a teenage student is suing the principal of Tunkhannock Area high school, the school district, the county, prosecutors and a detective in the case. The student’s phone was searched in a sexting case, which has recently been ruled on by a Federal Appeals Court.
More information on that decision may be found HERE. In a nutshell, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district attorney may not pursue felony charges against a teenage girl for “sexting”.
According to the lawsuit, the teen, who is now 19 years of age, states that the principal illegally searched her phone during the incident, which occurred in January of 2009. Through the search, the principal found nude photos the student had taken of herself. The principal then took the phone and gave it to prosecutors. In the lawsuit, the student states that the photos were never meant to be shared, but were for herself and perhaps her long term boyfriend.
However, due to the nature of the photos, the school’s principal, Gregory Ellsworth turned the phone over to the then district attorney of Wyoming County, George Skumanick Jr. After reviewing the images, Skumanick threatened, the lawsuit states, for the student to take a class on sexual violence or to face charges of child pornography, which would be felony charges.
Within the lawsuit documents the plaintiff states, “I was absolutely horrified and humiliated to learn that school officials, men in the DA’s office and police had seen naked pictures of me.” The student’s name is not being released and in court documents she is named only as N.N.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is representing her in court and through the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against numerous individuals who were part of the case. The lawsuit also seeks immediate destruction of all remaining images.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 818-461-8500 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.