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.