First Amendment

ACLU Sues over Expulsion of Eighth Graders for Facebook Posts About Killing Ugly Classmates

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a First Amendment lawsuit over the expulsion of three eighth grade girls who posted Facebook comments about which classmates they would like to kill.

The suit against Griffith Public Schools in Northern Indiana says the posts were just “teenage banter” and should not have been taken seriously, report the Chicago Tribune, the Northwest Indiana Times, the Post-Tribune and a press release. The ACLU says the girls used smiley faces and abbreviations such as “LOL” to show they were joking, and posted the comments on their own time on their own electronic devices.

The Northwest Indiana Times has parts of the online conversation:

Girl 2: Thee only people that make me mad, are 7th graders who don’t move out of thee way. & ugly people like [names] ..etc.

Girl 1: I would say kill all the ugly people at school than. But I don’t wanna die.

Girl 3: i wanna kill people. …

Girl 1: I need new best friends. All of mine are homicidal.

The conversation also included how the girls would carry out the killing, the Post-Tribune says. The school contended the posts violated rules on bullying and harassment.

The Northwest Indiana Times quotes University of California at Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh. He told the publication that the school could punish threats, but exaggeration, hyperbole and jokes are protected speech.

Updated at 11:55 a.m. to include Eugene Volokh opinion.

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