Sunday, April 29, 2012

Teenage girls expelled over Facebook 'hit list'

In this age of cyberbullying, why anyone would assume that something like this could possibly be considered a "joke" is beyond us. That said, the American Civil Liberties Union is defending three Northwest Indiana girls who were expelled for a Facebook "conversation" which has been said to resemble a school "hit list."

The lawsuit, filed against Griffith Public Schools by the ACLU on the behalf of Sabrina Munsie and Kennedy Fortier, both 14, and a third unnamed girl, says that the Facebook conversation was "clearly meant to be humorous, as evidenced by their repeated use of emoticons such as ;)..." The suit also said that the school district violated the teens' free speech rights.

The girls were suspended and later expelled in January for the remainder of the school year after Griffith Middle School officials were alerted to the Facebook posts by a classmate's mother. The suit said that school officials told the girls they had violated school policy against harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

Sabrina Munsie said "It was just very dumb, and I wish I could take it back," while Kennedy Fortier said "We were just joking around. It hurts me that they thought I would really do something like that, because I would not. I regret everything I did."

Still, there have been instances of cyberbullying that have been very serious, and which have resulted in dire consequences for those facing the brunt of the activity.

Among the posts in the exchange:

Girl 1: "Lets kill the girl were talking about right now?"
Girl 2: "IM DOWN. its about time..."
[...] Girl 1: "I wanna kill people."
Girl 2: "ii wish uu wouldn't get caught, cos (expletive), half thee school would be gone by now..."

Classmate Courtney Tinsely, 14 was mentioned in the Facebook exchange. "I felt really hurt and upset, and I started to cry," she said, adding "There's no reason why there should be a lawsuit against the school. They did nothing wrong, except for try to protect me."

All three of the girls have been told the expulsion only lasts through this school year. All have been invited back for the ninth grade, but only one plans to attend that school.

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