ACLU sues Griffith schools over students’ Facebook postings case
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org April 25, 2012 4:04PM
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:53AM
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is suing Griffith Public Schools, saying the district violated the free speech rights of three eighth-grade students when it expelled them in February over Facebook postings.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, claims the three Griffith Middle School female students — identified only as S.M., J.D. and K.F. — talked to one another on Jan. 24 through numerous comments under a Facebook status posted by S.M. The conversation eventually turned to talking about which classmates the girls would like to kill and how they would do so.
The district, whose attorney could not be reached for comment, found out about the comments from the mother of another student, the lawsuit says, and a principal placed them on a 10-day suspension and recommended they be expelled for violating the school’s policy on bullying and harassment.
Superintendent Peter Morikis did so after an expulsion hearing supported the move.
The ACLU argues, however, that the girls were simply joking during the online chat, as indicated by the fact that they used emoticons such as “;)”, meaning to give a wink.
“At no point in this conversation were the girls expressing any actual intentions to inflict harm on any person, nor were they threatening or attempting to intimidate any person,” the suit says.
It also argues that they used their own personal computer equipment on their own time and that the conversation was never mentioned at or caused a disruption at school.
“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,” ACLU attorney Gavin M. Rose said in a release.
The lawsuit asks for an injunction against the expulsions and for damages.