Internet privacy: Parents say school went too far over MySpace page

FORT WORTH — A single inappropriate word posted on her MySpace account got Burleson High School student Lindsey Wessel, 16, suspended from the Elk Strutters drill team for the first football game of the year.

Now her parents hope that administrators will reverse that punishment, citing the vagueness of district policy on Internet use.

School officials said they would announce their decision on the appeal by noon today, Wessel’s mother, Alicia Smock, said Tuesday.

According to a Burleson school spokesman, officials were approached by a third party with evidence from Wessel’s MySpace account that showed photos of her and friends in bikinis and included an inappropriate word. She was not disciplined for the pictures, but the word was unacceptable and was the basis for the suspension, the spokesman said.

Wessel was assessed eight demerits in keeping with the Elk Strutters’ code of conduct. Twenty demerits in a student’s total time with an activity such as the drill team can lead to permanent dismissal.

The incoming junior only recently made the drill team, which requires students to try out before every football game appearance, Smock said.

Smock wants the one-game suspension lifted and the demerits removed from her daughter’s record.

"How far do you go?" Smock said. "It’s privacy issues."

Wessel and her parents maintain that the offending material appeared on a private page of the social-networking site and that Wessel’s restricted account can be viewed only by approved "friends." About 400 people are listed on the site as friends, and Smock said the offending word was posted by one of them.

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