Griffith Public Schools, students settle lawsuit relating to Facebook comments

2013-03-18T18:00:00Z 2013-03-19T13:22:04Z Griffith Public Schools, students settle lawsuit relating to Facebook commentsMarisa Kwiatkowski, (219) 662-5333

HAMMOND | Griffith Public Schools reached a settlement with three girls who were expelled after making Facebook comments discussing killing several classmates and teachers, according to federal court documents filed Monday.

The girls' families and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued Griffith Public Schools last April, claiming the district violated the girls' First Amendment rights to free speech by expelling them for their online comments.

The ACLU and families claim the girls' comments were "complete jest" that no reasonable person would interpret otherwise, according to the lawsuit. The Times is not naming the girls involved because they are minors.

Griffith Public Schools argued the girls' conversation posed a "true threat," and two of the threatened students were so scared they missed classes and school, court records show.

The girls, who were eighth-graders at the time, had a nearly two-hour virtual conversation that included more than 70 posts. During it, the girls named multiple students and teachers whom they thought should die.

The Griffith girls were suspended and later expelled after a parent of one of the threatened students brought a copy of the conversation to school officials. The district said the girls violated a provision of the student handbook that relates to bullying, harassment and intimidation.

The girls were offered the opportunity to return to the district in the fall, court records state.

Details of the settlement were not available Monday.

Neither attorney Thomas Wheeler, who represented Griffith Public Schools, nor ACLU attorney Gavin Rose could be reached Monday for comment.

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