In the East Bay community of Albany, four students are suing the school district over being disciplined for commenting on or ‘Liking’ images on a racist Instagram account. According to ABC 7, the four students had “‘liked’ or briefly commented on the posts”.
“This to me is no different than having a private drawing book and making some offensive drawings at home and sharing them with a couple of my friends," the students’ attorney Alan Beck, told ABC 7. "Does the school have the right to ruin my life over something I was doing at my house?"
Of the students Beck is representing, three are facing suspension and one is facing expulsion. NBC Bay Area reports that 13 students in all were reprimanded for liking or commenting on the photos.
Some of the racist Instagram posts targeted specific Albany High students. “This is a hate crime,” Sade Don-Pedro, a parent of one of the targeted students, told KPIX. “You don’t have a First Amendment right to promote a hate crime against a group of people based on their skin color.”
While one might not hesitate to give the side eye to these litigious youngsters, legally speaking they may have a point. After all, everyone is familiar with the old ‘retweet is not an endorsement’ defense. “'Likes' are ambiguous in that they could be saying, 'This is funny,' 'I agree with it,' or 'I don't agree, but I want to stand up for your right to say it,” UCLA professor and renowned legal blogger Eugene Volokh tells the Chronicle.
The Albany Unified School District said in a statement to KPIX that “The District is currently reviewing the lawsuit and will take appropriate action in responding to it. The district takes great care to ensure that our students feel safe at school, and we are committed to providing an inclusive and respectful learning environment for all of our students. The district intends to defend this commitment and its conduct within the court system.”