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School suspends 2 students for sharing photos at gun range. Now the ACLU is helping the students sue the school.


It's inevitable

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two high school students who received suspensions in 2018 for sharing personal photos of themselves at a firing range on social media.

What's the backstory?

The suspension took place in March 2018 after the students — who have since graduated from the high school in question — shared the pictures in question on Snapchat.

One of the posts, according to Insider NJ, read "hot stuff," and "If there's ever a zombie apocalypse, you know where to go."

Viewers of the posts apparently took issue with the teens at a legal shooting range with legal firearms and contacted the school to report the students.

As a result, school officials suspended the teens from school.

Much of the public did not react well to the school's decision, and parents flooded a 2018 school board meeting demanding that the policy — which they believed violated the teens' First and Second Amendment rights — be reversed.

What about the lawsuit?

The ACLU of New Jersey filed the suit in federal district court on Wednesday along with law firm Pashman Stein Walder Hayden.

Alexander Shalom, a senior supervising attorney for the ACLU, said that the school had no right to suspend the students, or even discipline them as it pertained to the photos.

"There was no threat," Shalom said. "No unlawful behavior whatsoever. That is classic speech. They communicated something to their friends off of school grounds, off of school property, off of school time, and the school simply doesn't have the authority to discipline then for what they're doing outside of school time."

Shalom explained that school officials didn't even contact authorities to report any threat.

"One of [the teens] referenced the zombie apocalypse, so there could be nothing that could be perceived as an actual threat there," he added. "I want schools to take threats seriously. What I don't want them to do is think they have the ability and the authority to discipline students for their lawful activities off of school grounds."

The suit seeks to have the suspensions removed from the students' record, and an official note placed in the teens' academic records noting that the school violated the teens' rights. The suit also seeks a court injunction demanding that the school district not discipline students for protected speech when not on school grounds, and adjust corresponding school policies.

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