Derek Hawkins, Florida Times Union, May 5, 2017
Four California high school students who were suspended for “liking” and commenting on racist Instagram posts have filed a federal lawsuit alleging administrators paraded them through the school and allowed their classmates to berate them as part of a “healing” exercise.
The plaintiffs were among more than a dozen students at Albany High School who were accused of “liking” or commenting on the posts.
A complaint filed this week accuses the Albany Unified School District of going too far in suspending the other students. The lawsuit – which names the school district, the school and several administrators – alleges the four plaintiffs were punished in violation of their First Amendment and due process rights.
The lawsuit alleged that the plaintiffs, all juniors, were wrongfully suspended by the school in late March after some of their classmates took screenshots of the Instagram posts and reported them to administrators.
When the students returned on March 30, the lawsuit said, administrators forced them to march through the school while their peers tormented them.
“School administrators allowed the student body to hurl obscenities, scream profanities, and jeer at the Plaintiffs and the other suspended students, who were all not allowed to leave what the school considered an act of ‘atonement’ but was rather a thinly veiled form of public shaming,” the lawsuit said.
Later the same day, they attended a “voluntary restorative justice session” organized by a community group. A few hundred students and parents gathered outside to protest. When the session came to a close, the demonstration grew tense, prompting the plaintiffs’ parents to ask for a police escort out, according to the complaint.
As two of the plaintiffs were leaving, an incensed demonstrator struck both of them in the head, leaving one of them with a broken nose and the other with cuts and bruises, the lawsuit alleged.
The students want the school to wipe their disciplinary records clean, refrain from any further punishment and allow them to make up the work they missed.