The parents of a Central York High School student are suing the school district for allegedly violating their son's free speech rights.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. Middle District Court this week claims the 15-year-old Manchester Township boy was wrongfully suspended for 10 days and expelled for an additional 13 days as punishment for a Facebook post he made after a bomb threat last year.
The ninth-grader posted, “Plot twist: They don't find the bomb and it goes off tomorrow” after the school was evacuated and students were sent home early Oct. 23, according to court documents.
In their lawsuit, the boy's parents claim his Facebook post was not a threat, but an expression of their son's anxiety over the bomb scare and a misplaced attempt at humor.
They point out that Springettsbury Township police investigated the bomb threat received by the school and found their son was not involved, and no charges were filed against him.
The parents want the district to expunge the incident from their son's school record, revise school policies that led to his punishment, and pay damages and attorney's fees.
The district responded to the lawsuit in the following statement:
“The courts have made clear that there is no First Amendment right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. We believe that it should be equally clear that there is no right to “joke” about a bomb going off “tomorrow” at the high school.”
“Not only did this cause understandable apprehension in the school community, it also caused the district to bring the Springettsbury Police Department back in to conduct a second investigation.”
“The student was provided with due process and, under the circumstances, his obvious misconduct could have justified much more severe discipline.”
“The district will vigorously defend it's right to protect the safety and well being of its students.”