Students Suspended For Hate Speech On Instagram

They claim free speech violated.

By Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Four teens in California were suspended from school after "liking" and commenting a racist post on social media. They were suspended and claim that their right to free speech was violated and they were publicly shamed.

According to NY Daily Newsfour juniors from Albany High School in San Francisco filed a federal lawsuit on Monday. They claim the school district can't suspend them because the racist posts were on a private account and suspension violates their right to free speech. 

The Instagram images in question surfaced in March and included visuals of nooses drawn around the necks of a black student and coach as well as a photo of a black person next to an ape. The student behind the Instagram account was suspended and is facing expulsion. One of suspended students replied "yep" to a comment on a post, per the lawsuit.  Two others "liked" some of the images.

In the lawsuit, the suspended students claim they were brought in front of students for a "public shaming" session. Two claim they were injured by a protester.

"They engaged in conduct protected by the First Amendment, and shouldn't suffer due to engaging in not-pleasant speech but constitutionally protected speech," the students' lawyer, Alan Beck, shared with the Mercury News. "Ultimately, this is primarily about getting them back in school. The real issue is these kids have been out of school for several weeks now."

The uncle and guardian of a 17-year-old girl (who was featured in one of the photos) disagrees. He argued that she doesn't feel safe at school and that her grades have been affected.  “Free speech is a fundamental right, but it can’t be at the expense of hurting someone,” he said.

The suspended students are seeking unspecified damages and want a court order to remove the suspension from their school records.

[Photo: Pexels]


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