AURORA | A family is suing the Cherry Creek School District and its officials after the expulsion of one student for an inflammatory, anti-semitic Snapchat post in September.
Lawyers representing the family of an unnamed, former student at Cherry Creek High School filed the civil suit in the local U.S. District Court late last month. The family is arguing the district violated rights of freedom of speech and expression when expelling the student for a social media photo of three friends wearing hats overlaid with the text “Me and the boys bout to exterminate the Jews.”
The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages for his expulsion, re-enrollment in a district high school and reconsideration of district policies cited in the expulsion.
“We dispute the allegations in the complaint and intend to vigorously defend against these claims,” said district spokeswoman Abbe Smith.
Smith said in September the three students in the original photo all said they did not know the photo of them was paired with the text.
Afterward, the Cherry Creek School District conducted its own investigation of the incident and ultimately expelled the student who took the photo and captioned it with the derogatory text.
Ultimately, the student was suspended and expelled in late October after a review process.
The lawsuit takes issue with district policies cited in the expulsion decision, including District Policy JICDA-13.
That policy permits a principal to expel or suspend a student for “Engaging in verbal abuse, i.e., name-calling, ethnic or racial slurs, or derogatory statements addressed publicly to others that precipitate disruption of the school program or incite violence.”
Another policy cited in the decision, according to the complaint, was JICDA-19, allowing suspension or expulsion for “Behavior on or off school property that is detrimental to the welfare, safety, or morals of other students or school personnel.”
The family’s lawyers are arguing that, because the incident took place off-campus and had virtually no connection to the school district, the first policy does not apply. As for the second, the legal team says the school district personnel, other families and media reports spread the Snapchat around and essentially manufactured the outrage that followed. Without publicly acknowledging the social media post, they say, the post would have simply disappeared in a short window of time.
The Snapchat was first noticed and flagged by a social media connection of the now-expelled student.
Lawyers also make the case that, before the expulsion, the family repeatedly attempted to make the incident a learning experience for the student.
The student read books about the Holocaust, publicly apologized and spoke with members of the Jewish community, the legal team wrote.
But they maintained the post was motivated by “dark humor.”
The parties named in the lawsuit are slated to appear in court Feb. 5 for a scheduling conference.