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Lawsuit challenges Saline school district's discipline of students over racist social media posts

Saline High school with students in wintertime
Public Domain

Four Saline high school students have sued their school district for punishing them over racist social media posts that used the 'N' word.

The federal lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, alleges that the Saline Area Schools violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights to free speech and due process, and that the school district did not have the authority to suspend or expel them over the posts. 

"None of this happened at the school or on school property or had anything to do with the school," said David Kallman, attorney for the students.

"You look at the school code of conduct. You look at state law," said Kallman. "They're only allowed to discipline for things that happen at the school."

Kallman said even though nobody condones the students' offensive language, it was a private conversation on Snapchat.

According to the lawsuit, "while Plaintiff's speech was immature and inappropriate, none of Plaintiff's speech amounted to a true threat, it was not reasonably calculated to reach the school environment, nor did it pose a serious safety threat to the school."

The lawsuit is asking the school district to reinstate the students, two of whom have returned to school, and expunge their school records.

Saline schools' superintendent Scot Graden and Heidi Pfannes, president of Saline schools' Board of Education, said school officials could not comment on pending litigation.

The incident has received national attention. It has led to community meetings to discuss racism in Saline and in its schools. At one meeting, a white parent asked an immigrant parent from Mexico why he didn't stay there.

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