Lawsuit filed over Facebook free speech

April 26, 2012 8:17:43 PM PDT
The issue at the center of a lawsuit involving students who were expelled for writing comments on Facebook interpreted as death threats is whether those posts should be protected as free speech.

It all started with three teenage girls having a conversation on Facebook.

"When we made those comments we didn't think ahead," said Sabrina Munsie of Griffith Middle School.

"I didn't mean anything that I said," Kennedy Fortier said. "I was just joking around."

According to a police report filed by Griffith Middle School, the girls, including Fortier and Munsie, were joking about killing all the ugly people.

One comment says, "OMG, before I die, I wanna kill 20 people. Another reads, "If I killed with a knife, I'd fill a tub with acid and put the body in there and nothing would be left."

One of the people mentioned at the beginning of the thread was fellow student, Courtney Tinsley.

"I felt really hurt and upset, and I started to cry," Tinsley said.

"Bullying is getting people shot and killed in schools," Courtney Tinsley's father, Timothy said. "We just don't know what to do. We want this to stop."

Within hours Fortier, Munsie and the third girl involved in the online conversation had been suspended.

They've now been expelled for the remainder of the school year.

Their parents, backed by the ACLU are now suing the school.

"I was in high school when Columbine happened, so I understand the seriousness that's warranted, but I know the difference between a valid physical threat and just some kids discussing what they learned on CSI," said Bonnie Martin.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the girls Facebook comments, which happened outside of school and on their personal computers, were meant to be humorous and constitute free speech.

The school clearly disagrees, but is referring all calls to an attorney.

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