A group of parents is suing a Southern California school district because, they say, school officials suspended their kids for four days over a series of tweets containing Hitler jokes and anti-Semitic statements.
The flurry of tweets occurred on a Sunday.
The incident giving rise to the lawsuit occurred in the spring of 2014, on Hitler’s birthday, reports CBS Los Angeles. (It was also Easter that day.)
The students attended Oak Park High School, a taxpayer-funded school in the generally sleepy suburbs northwest of Los Angeles.
The parents who have filed the lawsuit contend that the suspensions over the weekend Twitter musings violated their children’s First Amendment rights.
“I don’t think it’s funny. My husband doesn’t think it’s funny,” one of the parents, Kristi Pollard, stressed in a CBS Los Angeles interview. “I don’t like those kinds of jokes.”
At the same time, she said, she believes that in the United States, the proper way to deal with speech is: “I might not agree with that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
“This is America,” she said.
Pollard’s son, Jared, was among the suspended students. He was 16 years old at the time.
“When you make a mistake, you get corrected,” the mad mother told the station, “but I’m the one who corrects it. Especially if it happens in my home on a Sunday night.”
Pollard described the response at Oak Park High against her son as “brutal and cruel.”
An unnamed parent of an unnamed student at the school sent a few hundred emails in response to the tweets and pushed for punishment, she claimed.
That parent “started this whole thing,” Oak Park High student Kenny Park, told CBS Los Angeles. “It just blew up. I understand both sides of the situation.”
“I want my children not to be scared at school,” Pollard told CBS Los Angeles. “I want them to be learning at school. I brought this suit because it’s illegal to do that to children. And if I don’t protect them, who will? I love them.”
Scotland Yannello, a student who was involved in the pro-Hitler tweeting, issued a written apology in June 2014 in The Acorn, a local newspaper.
“I am writing this letter to apologize to all the people I have hurt, offended or disappointed, and also to address the anonymous email many Oak Park residents received that was inaccurate, exaggerated and caused unnecessary fear and panic,” Yannello wrote.
“I don’t even know how to express how deeply sorry I am to have made such distasteful and hurtful comments. I am ashamed and embarrassed of how oblivious I was to such a serious offense,’ he explained.
Yannello went on to say that a raft of charges made against him in the anonymous email were false. Those charges included intimidating Jewish classmates and defacing property with swastikas. “I was not a ‘ringleader’ of any group and there is no ‘Ninja Crew,'” he patiently explained. “Most of all, my family did not teach me to make jokes out of human suffering, as the email states.”
Yannello claimed he was asked to leave Oak Park High, though he did not state who made the request.
One student at Oak Park High said the four-day suspension for weekend tweeting was justified because he was offended.
“I think what they did was wrong, and they deserved the consequences,” the student, Dean Kenig, told the station. “Me, myself, I’m Jewish, so I found it very offensive.”
The lawsuit names Oak Park Unified School District, the principal of Oak Park High, and the district superintendent among the defendants.
School district officials refused to comment on the pending litigation.
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