Unfriended: Three Indiana Teens Expelled Over Facebook Banter

We have another case of school kids being punished for statements made outside of school on a social media site. I have previously criticized this trend where both students and teachers are being denied free speech rights as schools extend their reach into homes and private lives. In this case, you have three Grade 8 girls from Griffith Middle School on Facebook dishing about how they would love to kill. It is in my view clearly a basis for the girls to be called into the office with their parents. However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has sued a Northern Indiana school over the disciplining of the girls.

The ACLU notes that “[a]t all times, the conversation was purely in jest and could not have been interpreted seriously, as is evidenced by the girls’ repeated use of ’emoticons,’ by their use of abbreviations indicative of humor, and by the nature and tone of the conversation.”

The girls attended Griffith Middle School near Highland in Lake County. They were expelled for violating “a provision of the student handbook dealing with bullying, harassment and intimidation,” the ACLU said in a news release.

The girls, all age 14, were expelled in February.

There is a need for schools to be tough on bullying, as previously discussed. However, we do not need another “zero tolerance” category (and here) that is addressed through absolute and thoughtless acts of discipline.

The case, S.M., et al. v. Griffith Public Schools was filed in the United States District Court Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, under cause number 2:12-cv-00160-JD-APR. Unfortunately, the ACLU has not yet posted the complaint in the case, but we will be following the case closely.

Source: Indy Star and USA Today

56 thoughts on “Unfriended: Three Indiana Teens Expelled Over Facebook Banter”

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  3. mespo,

    “If it happened on school grounds verbally would that make a difference to either of you?”

    Perhaps, however, it didn’t. And what raff said but one step further. I’d have simply rather the school contacted all involved parents and leave the decision whether to contact the police with the parents of the threatened kid(s). The liability and, I might add, appropriateness of school supervision of children ends at the property line and the boundary of school sponsored events. If they were stalking my kids like that? Even if my kids were being threatened? I would be pissed. Their job is to educate my children, not to spy on them 24/7/365. Giving children the idea that sort of behavior by a governmental body is simply unacceptable to me and an anathema to the right of privacy. It plays into fostering the notion that a surveillance police state is fine when it is anything but fine.

  4. Mespo,
    The school should contact the police. Their charter isn’t to act as policemen, when kids are no longer in their charge. If the students do any bullying on campus or with school computers, they should step in, but the police should be involved if there is a serious issue. The school administration is not charged with watching the kids 24 hours a day. The parents and the police, if necessary, are responsible for that job. If I was the administrator and saw or heard these statements, I would contact the parents and the police.

  5. rafflaw/Gene H:

    If it did not involve another student I would agree, but can the school ignore the “threat” to one of its students (even an emotional threat) and abdicate their duty to protect, Can the school avoid enforcing their own bullying rules? The perpetrating students surely knew that the “victim” would see the messages. If it happened on school grounds verbally would that make a difference to either of you?

  6. mespo,

    I’m with raff on this one. The school is overreaching in non-school surveillance of students.

  7. Mespo,
    I understand that it could have been serious, but that is not for the school to decide when it happened off of school grounds. Call the police and let them handle it if it really is serious.

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