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Settlement in works for teens expelled for online death threats

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Griffith Public Schools and the three teens expelled from eighth grade because of a Facebook conversation are in the process of finalizing a settlement agreement, according to a joint status report filed Wednesday in federal court.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the suit, S.M., by her mother and next friend Bonnie Martin-Nolan, et al. v. Griffith Public Schools, No. 2:12-CV-160, in the Hammond Division of the Northern District of Indiana, in April 2012. The lawsuit alleges the girls’ First Amendment rights were violated by the disciplinary action taken by the school. They want to be able to return to school and have the disciplinary action removed from their records. The plaintiffs also seek damages and costs.

S.M., J.D., and K.F. commented on S.M.’s status update on Facebook, joking about whom they would kill and how they would do it if they had the opportunity. They claimed the “emoticons” used while making the alleged threats showed they were joking. A mother of one of the girls’ classmates notified the school principal about the conversation. The teens were originally suspended, but later expelled.

The joint status report says the parties are confident the case will be “resolved in the foreseeable future.” Another status report on the settlement negotiations will be filed by March 29 if the case is not settled and dismissed by that time.

 

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