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Four California high school students sue district over suspensions for ‘liking’ racist Instagram posts

A March rally at Albany High School calls for unity in response to racist posts on social media.
A March rally at Albany High School calls for unity in response to racist posts on social media.
(Chris Treadway / AP)

Four California high school students have sued a school district after they were suspended over their responses to Instagram posts that included a black student and coach with nooses around their necks.

The students at Albany High School in the Bay Area “liked” or briefly commented on the posts, according to the lawsuit filed this week in federal court in San Francisco.

The suit accuses the district of exceeding its authority to discipline the students because the posts were on a private account with no connection to school activity.

“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,” said Alan Beck, an attorney for the students. “Does the school have the right to ruin my life over something I was doing at my house?”

The posts came to the district’s attention in March, sparking protests. The material included jokes about students’ weight and looks.

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Albany Unified School District Supt. Valerie Williams said in a statement that the district was reviewing the lawsuit and intends to respond.

“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,” she said.

School officials also suspended the student who has the Instagram account, and he is facing expulsion, according to his attorney, Cate Beekman.

The lawsuit claims the district also suspended students who passively followed the account. It seeks unspecified damages and a court order removing the suspensions from the four students’ records.

“People of this age click ‘like’ to pretty much everything, and they’ll respond in grunts and single syllables to pretty much anything,” said Darryl Yorkey, another attorney for the students.

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