The Proper Response to Teenage 'Death Threat' Jokes Is LOL -- Not Expulsion From School

smileysI'm so relieved that the three 14-year-old girls in Indiana who were expelled from eighth grade for making "death threats" on Facebook have somebody on their side. The ACLU is suing on the girls' behalf, and their argument is spot-on: "Genuine death threats don't tend to come with 'LOL' and a smiley face attached."

Gee, ya think? Here's the deal: The girls were having a conversation on Facebook. Said conversation eventually turned to the topic of classmates they wished they could "kill." (Including the aforementioned LOLZ, emoticons, and other such digital indicators of non-violent intent.)

Was this a kind and pleasant virtual exchange? No, I'm not saying that. I'm not saying they weren't having a "mean girls" moment.

But were they making death threats?

To quote Gavin Rose, staff attorney for the ACLU of Indiana, “Any reasonable person could see the conversation was purely in jest and could not be interpreted seriously. Free speech rights under the First Amendment, even when it’s speech we don’t like or agree with, must still be protected, and schools do not possess infinite reach into the private lives of their students."

Precisely. If the school wanted to suspend the girls for a couple of days or give them detention for a week, that would've been one thing. But expulsion? That's a permanent record thing (not to mention expensive, particularly for the mom who had to spend nearly $1,000 on home-schooling since her daughter was expelled). The school is allowing the girls to take the tests necessary to advance to the ninth grade, but the academic damage is no doubt already done.

As a parent, I totally understand that we're all a little over-sensitive these days thanks to the school shooting phenomenon and a million other incidents that makes us afraid to send our kids to class. But we need to be, as Rose said, "reasonable." Smiley faces? Come on.

Do you think these girls deserved to be expelled?


Image via Ramesh NG/Flickr

behavior, news, school


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paren... parentalrights1

Lol I got sent to the principal for death threats when I told a classmate I was going to kill her jokingly. She was being playful too (we were like 10) and she told the teacher, but it was just meant for everyone to have a laugh.

The principal thankfully understood it wasn't serious and didn't call my mom like they were going to do :|

nonmember avatar oKK

I actually live where this happened and there is nothing "fun" or "silly" about the conversation these girls were having. A conversation which included names, ways to kill said person and body disposal technique. The transcript has been released if you want to read it let me know. There was nothing humerous and I for one am glad the school took such a strong stand against bullying. Can you imagine how any of the kids mentioned in that thread feel about it or having to go to school after that was published? Also, what if nothing was done about it and god forbid someone did hurt someone else...then whose the fool?

noneya79 noneya79

I think I live in this same town where this happened... I read about it in the newspaper today. I will have to talk to the kids to see who these girls were!

Texas... TexasSonrisa

I fail to see the humor... Sounds like they were being bullies and they got caught. This isn't a FOS issue. I can only imagine if the school did nothing about this "playful" exchange and (God forbid) someone took their life or acted on these "LOLZ death threats". Then you'd be demonizing the school for not doing enough!

Naomi Guiney

making death threats is not a joke i dont care what you say and they got what was  coming to them . they got the right punishment.

nonmember avatar kelleyk

Oh these comments. Shut up. Do you not realize there were bullies since there have been people? Your grandparents had bullies go and ask them if children were expelled or put in the news or if the bullied went and killed them selves because of it. Probably not. It's life there are things happening in schools like this every where since FOREVER. STOP coddling your children. Teach then some self respect and self worth. Teach work ethics teach life lessons don't teach them that they are fragile little things who need everyone to go easy on them. Instill some survival instincts in your soft defendant children, and sup complaining that no one else treats them right, the way you do. Guess what most every one thinks there is something wrong with your kids, no one else likes then add much as you do. Bullying isn't pleasant, but come on you can't let your kid grow up think he has a good given right to be respected. Add nice add it would be if that were true it's not. You have to earn it, as a child, as an adult, in relationships, in careers. Letting kids believe that is just preparing them to live in your garage and manage the McDonalds down the road.

nonmember avatar TRACY

I live in the Region and my 7 yr old was suspended for throwing a pencil. They cannot have rules about bullying and violence in school if they don't hold every student accountable, regardless of the severity. In this day and age for these teenagers to make comments like that on Facebook is ignorant on their part. You reap what you sew!

DoubleAG DoubleAG

Kellyk. What if they were talking about killing your kid?

lalab... lalaboosh

Kelly, it is deeply sad that you think children have to earn respect. All living things should be treated respectfully. If someone treated me poorly because I hadn't 'earned' their respect I would probably never be respected by them since obvs they have no idea what respect is.

butte... butterflyfreak

Yes, Kelly, it's true, bullies have been around since time immemorial. The difference is that kids have far more WAYS to bully and children no longer have the safe haven of their home. Now the bullies follow them home through social media. Personally, I think parents need to step up and pay more attention to what their children are doing online. I applaud the school for taking a firm stance. I don't care if they were "just joking." Kids need to learn that what they say and do on the internet can be traced back to them and there ARE repercussions to your words and deeds. And murder/suicide/death are not something that should be taken lightly.

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