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 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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