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”

  1. I’m confused… most of the schools I know can barely pay their teachers now a days…how do so many other schools manage to pay people to sit around and read other peoples social media? And unless there have been some sort of charges filed by law enforcement against these folks what business is it of the schools anyway ?

  2. Back in my high school senior year, inspired by an uncle who put a fellow teacher’s car in a hallway, just before Christmas vacation at the elementary school where he taught (and it stayed there until school re-opened), I and several other members of the concert choir took the choral director’s Porsche and put it in the orchestra pit.

    We charged students $.25 to see it. From my periphery, I saw another person approaching, and put my hand out to take the admission fee. Biggern’ shit, it was our beloved principal, who said, “I’m not paying anything to see one of my teacher’s cars parked in an orchestra pit.”

    He somewhat figured I was the ringleader* and asked me how much I’d made. When I told him just under $20 (1974 dollars) he said that wasn’t too bad. He added that it would be just enough to by materials to wash and wax the car, after we took it back outside, and put it where we found it. He knew full well the closest hose bib was about 100 feet in the opposite direction, and we had to carry it from pit, to bib, to parking spot.

    * My history of pranksterism prior to this, included sponsoring nerf baseball in the library, cafeteria and administrative offices. The good principal allowed us one inning in the admin area, before making us take it outside.

    Also responsible for hijacking my senior English teacher who was confined to a wheelchair after breaking her ankle, and taking her down to the far regions of the school, to the music wing. I managed to get the chair to do a wheelie in front of said admin offices, causing a “special needs” Marilyn Monroe over the grate with her skirt. After depositing her, I hid around a corner, and heard her using some English words I thought would never come out of her mouth. I did wheel her back to the teacher’s lounge.

    Last prank, a water balloon fight in front of the school. I’ll be damned if a schoolmate didn’t duck at the last minute, and struck said principal in the chest. Everyone scattered. The principal escorted me to his office, sat me down and after a brief discussion, asked me to round up the usual suspects. Once we were in his office, he thanked me for getting them there, and excused me. Out-fucking-ratted by a pro…

    Today, I would have probably been charged with: auto theft, criminal mischief, extortion, vandalism, kidnapping, assault, battery, and probably “litterin’.” What I ended up getting, were two outstanding letters of recommendation for college.

    Funny how times change…

  3. Google Alyssa Bustamante.

    That being said, what kids do away from school is not the business of school administrators. Were they stalking my child in such a manner, I’d have filed suit long before the ACLU got involved.

    1. A very rare cicustance. I think that we can agree that there is a proper way to do things if their is a true threat but shouldn’t that be the first thing before anything is done. Three 14 year olds Texting/blogging?????

  4. Generally, it’s been my experience that many 14 year old girls are cold hard killers but I just can’t seem to remember a single case? If there is, it’s extremely rare, perhaps maybe in a war zone or some other horrible curcumstances. Some people want to control the affairs of others that they have no business being a part of. Should the parents have been appraised of the issue if they didn’t know? Hopefully by a friend or even a concerned public servant to allow the parents to determine the true nature of their daughters involvement. That is what friends and family are for.

  5. Subishi,

    Who is responsible for the children? The parents, or the school? Who has to worry about the legal liability? Perhaps you would like to absorb that responsibility?

  6. I’m sure expelling these kids will solve all of their problems. since they’re expelled and have all of that free time on their hands, they can do much more facebook posting and emoticon-laden threatening. perhaps by expelling the students the school system has taken the “Not my Job” approach to problem solving and now it is strictly in the hands of the parents? either way, i guarantee that this problem, if it is indeed a problem, will not go away.

  7. ID707,

    Do you want to be responsible for the children? Perhaps you would like to sign the contract. Do you like corn?

  8. Does it stand anywhere in the student manual that they will be watching you in all possible situations? It should. Figure out how they can. If Obama can, so can we, the school says.

    Does the constitution set any age limits on having bill of rights protection?
    You mention 18 years in a way that gave me thé question.

    In other words, are children extensions of their parents subject to arbitrary treatment as decided by any admin such as a school? Is a contract signed by the parents? Are the terms contained in the contract, etc. You could do this questioning better than I.

  9. If it is filed in court then it should be on Pacer. I will put my paws on it and get back to ya.
    That school district better have some money saved up to pay this judgment which is coming their way.

  10. Dean Fox,

    In the old days, they would have let them fight it out and get it over with.

  11. I agree this is a disturbing trend but in days of old your audience was much smaller than it is today and it was very unusual for what you said to be recorded and readily available afterwards.

    These days individuals can have the audience akin to a small town newspaper. With that kind of publishing power comes responsibility. In days of old they’d have been caned not expelled though.

  12. MASkeptic,

    They don’t need to quietly submit. They need to learn how to play nice. The human brain doesn’t fully mature until the mid-twenties.

  13. It is as if you expect school administrators to have common sense or something! It’s not like they are responsible for anything important like educating children.

  14. How else can we prepare children for the future that we’re building for them; an arbitrary rule of law, punishments for questioning authority, disproportionate response in enforcement? They need to be taught to quietly submit to these things now while they’re young and haven’t fully developed their critical thinking skills.
    I’d like to point out that this never would have happened in a private school. They care about money too much to kick two sacks of cash, I mean, “students” out the door.

  15. rafflaw,

    Do you remember the school in Colorado? Girls are much less likely to be that violent, but perhaps it’s death by a thousand cuts.

  16. This is another exteme example of free speech being curtailed merely because the speakers are less than 18 years old. Thank god for the ACLU.

  17. It is in my view clearly a basis for the girls to be called into the office with their parents … However, we do not need another “zero tolerance” category (and here) that is addressed through absolute and thoughtless acts of discipline.


  18. Fourteen year old girls. Like they aren’t going to pick on each other. Part of the problem is that schools have been expected to be taxpayer funded daycare facilities.

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