Multiple California high school students have filed federal lawsuits alleging they were wrongfully suspended and presented to a mob after interacting with offensive Instagram photos posted by another student.
Future rulings in the cases could have a broad impact on American students’ ability to communicate freely online while not in school, with the lawsuits seeking a judgment that the First Amendment allowed the students to “like” photos and write comments.
The Instagram images were shared using a private account and reportedly included a black doll next to a white-robed figure and a noose, as well as photos of African-American students next to apes, creating an uproar at Albany High School north of Berkeley.
More than a dozen students were disciplined by school officials in March, most of them given short suspensions for commenting on or “liking” the content. At least two, including the account’s alleged creator, still are awaiting possible expulsion.
Four students filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month, and were joined by two others who filed their own lawsuit Friday, seeking to clear their disciplinary records and have their actions declared constitutionally protected speech.