ACLU files suit on behalf of students expelled for Facebook comments
A group of middle school girls kicked out after threatening to kill their classmates on Facebook are taking their school to court, with the help of the ACLU.
The civil liberties organization is suing on behalf of the eighth graders who were booted from Griffith Middle School, claiming the comments were “clearly meant to be humorous”.
The ACLU filed the case against the school district this week, more than four months after the students were suspended.
The comments were posted on Jan. 24 and the 14-year-olds were all expelled in February.
“Any reasonable person could see the conversation was purely in jest and could not be interpreted seriously,” said ACLU of Indiana Staff Attorney Gavin M. Rose in a statement.
“Free speech rights under the First Amendment, even when it’s speech we don’t like or agree with, must still be protected, and schools do not possess infinite reach into the private lives of their students,” the group said.
The accused students insist the comments were taken out of context by another student and school officials.
“Another girl said, ‘I want to kill all the ugly people,’” she explained.
Her mother, Tabitha Fortier, said she didn’t approve of what was being written on her daughter’s Facebook wall, but thinks the conversation wasn’t worthy of expulsion.
“I wasn’t happy,” she told the TV station. “None of us moms were happy with the conversation that the girls were having.”
The students point to their use of emoticons and terms like “LOL,” which means laughing out loud, as proof that it was all in jest.
But school officials told the local CBS New station that the comments violated their policies against bullying and harassing, which has proved to be an increasingly bigger issue as incidents of online bullying have increased.
The ACLU said in a statement that the school’s resources could be better placed.
“Our children would be better served if schools modeled the values embodied in the Constitution,” ACLU of Indiana Interim Executive Director Frank Young said.
“When schools behave in ways that oppose these values, they fail to teach students an important part of their American heritage.”
With News Wire Services