Suit: District wrong to punish students over racist posts

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Michigan High School Racism

Parents discuss their experiences and opinions on racism in the Saline community and schools during a school diversity and inclusion meeting community meeting at Liberty School in Saline, Mich., Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. The meeting was hosted by Saline Area Schools in response to the racist Snapchat incident that occurred this past week. (Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP)

SALINE, Mich. (AP) — Four students in a southeastern Michigan town sued their school district over discipline they received in the wake of racist social media posts directed at black students.

The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday against Saline Area Schools, alleged district officials lacked authority to suspend the students over the posts, which led to a school meeting when a white parent asked a Hispanic parent why he didn't “stay in Mexico.” Last week, people rallied in the community about 40 miles (60 kilometers) southwest of Detroit to promote unity and inclusion holding signs whose messages included “Racism Not Welcome.”

The white students, who were not identified, were among those added to a private group on Snapchat, according to the lawsuit. Many of the students in the group, who were both white and black, were using what the lawsuit called “offensive terms like the ‘N’ word” — language it states was “inappropriate" and “immature,” yet shared “between friends and in a joking manner.”

Following that, the lawsuit added, school officials “made a grossly negligent decision to verbally suspend all the Plaintiff children and barred them attending Saline High School indefinitely.” The suit seeks damages and injunctions reinstating the youths, two of whom have returned to class, as well as having their names cleared.

The district “has no legal right to impose the discipline carried out and has violated our clients' constitutional rights by their reckless and hasty rush to judgment,” attorney David Kallman said in a statement.

Scot Graden, Saline schools' superintendent, told The Associated Press via email that the district can't comment on pending litigation. He said in a statement on Feb. 4 that “hate, prejudice and racism have no place in our schools or our community,” and the district has been working “to ensure a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for all students and families.”