Three Indiana school girls who posted bullying statements on Facebook, including which of their classmates they would like to kill, have reached a settlement agreement with their school district. The girls were expelled during their 8th grade year, but did return for their freshman year of high school.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the school district on the girls’ behalf in April 2012, about three months after they had been expelled, claiming that the middle school students’ free-speech rights had been violated. (The girls’ defense: their comments about killing classmates were a joke.) The school expelled the girls for violating their anti-bullying policies, and presented the transcript of their Facebook conversation in court, which included references to guns, knives, box cutters, gasoline, and even a bathtub full of acid. However, many of their remarks were accompanied by a smiley face emoticon, or a remark of “LOL,” facts that the ACLU defense used to portray their comments as humorous or sarcastic in nature.
Since details of the settlement are still confidential, it’s unclear if the girls received cash from the school district or were merely allowed to return to high school, as they already have. Do you think the school was right to suspend the girls in the first place? And should their Facebook comments be protected by freedom of speech?
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