In 2012, the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of three students who were expelled for a Facebook conversation. The students' Facebook comments took place after school on their personal electronic devices. In the conversation, they repeatedly used emoticons and abbreviations that showed the comments were meant to be humorous. Nevertheless, Griffith Middle School near Highland in Lake County, Ind., suspended and ultimately expelled the students.
Free speech is protected under the First Amendment, even when it's speech we don't like or agree with.
In expelling the students the school claimed the conversation had violated a provision of the student handbook dealing with bullying, harassment and intimidation. The ACLU of Indiana argued that the school had inappropriately inserted itself into the private lives of its students after school hours, and that the students' behavior did not cause a disruption at school. Parties in the case ultimately reached a private settlement.
Technology has enabled many new forms of communication since the protection of free speech was written into the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU of Indiana will continue to fight for the rights of free speech and privacy while using computers, smart phones and other electronic devices.