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Private school students' gay-bashing not free speech, court rules

Students at an elite L.A. private school who posted death threats and antigay messages on the Internet site of a 15-year-old classmate can't claim the constitutional protection of free speech, a California appeals court has ruled.

The parents of the boy targeted by the threatening and derogatory posts on his website withdrew him from Harvard-Westlake School and moved to Northern California to protect him from classmates who had incorrectly labeled him as gay and pronounced him "wanted dead or alive," the boy's father said in a lawsuit brought against six students and their parents.

The defendants had attempted to deflect the charges by seeking a judgment from Los Angeles County Superior Court that the comments were 1st Amendment-protected speech on an issue of public interest, a motion denied by the lower court and upheld by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in a 2-1 decision Monday.

The Los Angeles Police Department detective who initially investigated the hostile website postings against the student, identified only as D.C., had declined to pursue charges against the other students, saying their "annoying and immature Internet communications did not meet the criteria for criminal prosecution."

The Los Angeles County district attorney likewise declined to prosecute.

The appeals court decision separating cyber-bullying from free speech will allow the boy and his parents to move forward with their suit against the students for alleged hate crimes.

--Carol J. Williams

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Comments () | Archives (57)

"..another example of the lack of education about LGTBY history and culture.." Look. We don't care about your "culture" and absolutely don't want our children subjected to indoctrination in attempts to normalize your choices. Please keep it to yourselves and stop forcing it on everybody. Instead of demanding respect, try commanding it for a change.

Progressives place another nail in the coffin of Free Speech in this nation. If it's PC or progressive-speak, hold your tongue.

People have to separate the emotional baggage when deciding what is Free Speech. To say hateful speech is not free speech is wrong, hateful speech is most definitely free speech. But I think those in the Gay Community will look past what is legitimate free speech simply because they disagree with it. Likewise, some homophobe somewhere might say that a death threat against a gay person is free speech, when it of course, is not.
It would be nice if people could get over the politics of an issue and just look at the facts. It does not matter who is gay and who is not.
Hate speech is still free speech.
Death threats are illegal and should be prosecuted whether they are made at a Gay person or anyone else.

I hope that Harvard Westlake expelled the students that engaged in the harassing conduct. Free speech has limits. You cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater, without being subject to civil and criminal penalties.

To those who complain that "hate" speech is not a crime, let's be clear.
If a person speaks out against someone who is of any protected class, and THEN PHYSICALLY ACTS UPON THAT HATE, it is a HATE CRIME. People are not charged with a hate crime if it is only their thoughts, or words spoken against a protected class that are not including, or followed by, some physical act against that person or that person's property.

"The intention of "hate" legislation is to create two classes of people: those who are protected, and those who are not."

Maybe that'd be true if the laws said, "You cannot discriminate against gays, women, non-whites, and non-Christians." But they don't, having been written to include EVERYONE, ensuring protection from discrimination on the basis of broad catefgories like gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, etc. Since these categories apply to everyone no one is getting special priviledges, unless you consider it a priviledge to be more often victimized, giving you more opportunities to use such laws.

The Constitution of The United States of America, Amendment 1: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excercise thereof; or ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, or of the press; or the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I personally believe issuing death threats is morally wrong and I would never do it myself (unless someone harmed or was trying to harm my family) however, as long as they are not inciting chaos or riots or literally trying to kill this kid, then they technically have the right to say whatever they want. You may not like it but there is nothing that can be done about it. By the way, "hate crimes legislation" is completely unconstitutional because it violates one of the main premises of the constitution, that is everyone receives equal protection under the law. By prosecuting under "hate crimes" the law takes a class of citizens, whether based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, and elevates them above everyone else, thus destroying equal protection under the law.

Hey Dave, do you mind if I threaten your life and the lives in your family? I can sprinkle this message with a few bigoted epithets if you like, too. Get back to me with your whereabout and I'll see you shortly.

So let me get this straight: children are slandering another and making death threats against him, the parents know about it and their answer is to say they have a constitutional right to do so? And the police thinks it’s okay as well? Ever heard of Columbine? There’s no need to sit and wonder “what happened to the kids these days”; just look at the parents. If my child went to that school, I would take them out and fast.

@ NCMike. You hit the nail right on the head. A crime is a crime, regardless of whether or not the parties involved were different race, sex, or sexual orientation. Take the emotion out of this issue and judge the facts. Of course this is probably asking too much from the liberal lot that we've chosen to run this state.

Not surprised that the LA Times once again is either stupid or has an agenda with intentionally suspends proper comprehension of a legal matter. This freedom of speech had nothing to do with gay-bashing, it was about a death threat.

Do the parents NOT see the huge red flags waving in their faces??? This should be a lesson learned AND a wake up call. But then again, hatred is usually taught at home.

What if the kid was a Christian and was being badgered for being a homophobe for not supporting gay marraige? Would that be illegal?

This reporting is 100% worthless. Unless we can read the messages, we have no way of judging whether they're threats (illegal) or insults (legal).

It sounds like the kid was not really gay; the other kids shouldn't have done it.

The idea of hate crimes is a joke. Equal prosecution for equal crimes I say.
To prosecute someone because they've targeted a specific gender or ethnicity is rather inegalitarian. If someone wishes to prosecute because say he painted Blacks Go Home on someones house, sure we're talking vandalism AND a lawsuit, but that doesn't mean you should call it a hate crime. If we do, then it goes both ways guys. BOTH ways.

Once again it's shown that hatred is taught by liberals . . .

Speaking out against homosexuals and their degenerate behavior is a Constitutional right. Just ignore the government. It's on its way out anyhow.

I am sure if they posted hateful things about Christians or White Men it would be protected speech.

People try to say "hate crimes" do not create 2 classes of people because the laws apply to everyone.

Untrue: The laws are not applied equally. If a white is the victim the law is not applied.

Ergo: Two classes of people are created.

Brandon.. here, here. Awesome point. stellajusticematters and Stella Justice Matters: repeating the same gay BS doesn't make it right. Making death threads against anyone is morally reprehensible, regardless of what sexual acts one desires to perform in the residence.

I look forward to the return of common sense, common decency and the rule of the family unit in place of the homosexual experimentation we're all forced to endure.

When will straight white males be protected too?

You can't yell "fire" in a theater nor can you imply by virtue of your comments that someone should die, and will die by that said comment. This can be tried in court as a perceived threat and should be prosecuted as such.

This has nothing to do with "hate crimes" or "gay bashing".

A couple of comments are in order:

1) Based on this brief report, we have no information about how much the parents knew regarding their kids' activities. Let's not just immediately hang the parents out to dry. Please, don't tell me "well, they should have known." In this day and age, there is no way for parents to keep up on all of their kid's cyberactivity.

2) Pronouncing the boy as "wanted dead or alive" does not constitute assault unless there was a CREDIBLE threat to his safety. No information presented in this article supports that such a threat existed. I am not saying that it did not exist. I am simply saying that you can't tell that from the article. Perhaps that is why the police and DA did not proceed.

First off, this was one of the most blown overboard events in small potatoes history. Second, calling someone "gay" does not necessarily mean they are accusing someone of being in the LGBTQ culture anymore. Most of you are probably extremely out of touch, in addition to being extremely eager to offer judgment.

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