March 19, 2010
>California Court: Anti-LGBT Cyberbullying is NOT Free Speech
>An appeals court in California recently ruled on a case of cyberbullying between private high school students, finding that the anti-gay sentiments and death threats that a group of students posted on a classmate’s website were not protected by the First Amendment.
While the 15-year-old victim identifies as straight, six of his fellow students at Harvard-Westlake–an elite private high school in Los Angeles–targeted him for his perceived sexual orientation and proclaimed him a target, “wanted dead or alive.” If that’s supposed to be some sort of a joke, we’re not laughing.
The student’s parents pulled him out of school and moved to Northern California to protect their son, and filed a lawsuit against the bullies and their parents for violating their child’s civil rights. While the defendants sought to qualify the comments as constitutionally protected under free speech rights, the appeals court ruled that the threats did not merit this protection. In other words, the original case against the bullies’ families can move forward.
Hopefully, this case will serve as a reminder that any student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, can be hurt by anti-LGBT harassment–and that such bigotry and intolerance won’t come without consequences. Do you think the courts were correct, in recognizing and upholding the difference between free speech and hate speech?