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Teens sue school after expulsion for online death threats

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The three teenage girls who were expelled from school because of their after-school online activity filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the northern Indiana school district. The teens claim the death threats they made on Facebook were made jokingly and their First Amendment rights are being violated.

S.M., J.D. and K.F. were in eighth grade at Griffith Middle School when, in January, they engaged in a conversation on Facebook. S.M. posted a status update about cutting herself while shaving her legs. J.D. and K.F. commented on the status, and eventually the comments turned to the girls joking about whom they would kill and how they would do it if they had the opportunity. The suit says the conversation was made in complete jest, which is evident by the repeated use of “emoticons,” characters that resemble faces, and capitalization intended to represent sarcasm. The suit claims the girls never intended to actually hurt anyone.

A mother of one of the girls' classmates notified the school principal about the conversation. The girls were originally suspended for 10 days and later expelled for violating the portion of the student handbook concerning bullying, harassment and intimidation. The lawsuit doesn’t identify whom the girls discussed killing and if those individuals were students.

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.

The ACLU of Indiana filed 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.

 

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  1. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  2. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  3. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  4. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  5. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

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