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Albany School District Sued For Disciplining Teens Who Posted Racist Memes

ALBANY (CBS SF) -- Lawyers representing several high school students are suing the Albany Unified School District after the district disciplined the teens for posting racists memes on social media.

The four student plaintiffs are calling their school suspensions "a violation of their First Amendment rights," according to their lawsuit.


The suit claims the Albany Unified School District accused the students of circulating racist posts to social media, pictures of mostly female African-American students edited to show them with nooses around their necks and next to apes.

According to the lawsuit, the students posted the memes off school grounds to private accounts. The lawsuit claims the posts are protected "political speech."

Sade Don-Pedro, whose daughter was one of the victims targeted, disagreed vehemently.

"This is a hate crime," said Don-Pedro. "You don't have a First Amendment right to promote a hate crime against a group of people based on their skin color."

DeLisa Branch, the parent of another one of the victims, agreed.

"It is not a right to discriminate against anyone," said Branch.

Albany High was also rocked by another scandal at the end of April with the discovery of an Instagram account containing sexually explicit pictures of students from the school. That scandal was being investigated by police.

Albany High School participated in a number of rallies and meetings after the incidents a couple of months ago, speaking out against the teen boys' actions. The District Superintendent Valerie Williams spoke to KPIX 5 back in March.

"We want to send a strong message that we don't accept this," said Williams.

But after being punished, the teen boys are also suing for emotional distress.

They say the school put them in harm's way a number of times, citing a voluntary meeting where a demonstrator hit two of the disciplined students, leaving scrapes and bruises.

But the parents of the victims say their teen girls are the ones who are suffering.

"None of the girls are doing well," said Don-Pedro. "They are all behind and trying to catch up. And very upset."

When asked what she thought should happened to the boys, Don-Pedro replied, "I hope they get expelled. And they should get expelled."

The Albany School District released a statement Thursday afternoon that read in part, "The District is currently reviewing the lawsuit and will take appropriate action in responding to it. The district takes great care to ensure that our students feel safe at school, and we are committed to providing an inclusive and respectful learning environment for all of our students. The district intends to defend this commitment and its conduct within the court system."

The teen boys are suing the school for an unspecified amount of money. They also want school officials to clear their respective records.


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