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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)

When George Bush was president of the US, his life was threatened by protesters with signs frequently, he was hung in effigy, etc., and these "protesters" were not arrested, so threatening someones life is not necessarily a crime.

In addition, "lap dances" by naked women are considered free speech as well as a crucifix of Jesus Christ in a bottle of urine.

Just some thoughts to consider when evaluating free speech, whether you agree with it or not.

True death threats should never be hidden behind free speech protection if the boy truly felt danger and was in definite harm's way. The school should have cyberbullying rules in place and the offending students should be punished accordingly. However, I don't know if this story ends now because free speech is a constitutional matter and a broad fundamental right that is protected for all. We might see this continue to higher courts, if the parents want to pay for lawyers. Wonder if the ACLU will step in? They're funny about which cases they chose to involve themselves.

"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. "

See, these days we can actually research such claims when someone pulls them from thin air. Per the FBI, 16.8% of hate crime victims in 2008 were attacked out of anti-white bias. So yes, the law applied, look it up: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2008/victims.html

Anyone want to try to cite an actual legal precedent that says that hate crime laws cannot be used to prosecute non-whites? Something that didn't just echo from the court of public opinion, maybe?

"Kid's do the darndest things" Bill Cosby

I routinely heard other students scream "I'll kill you man!" before and after fights while growing up. Nobody died in my school nor were any police investigation launched to research the validity of the threats.

Nobody deserves to get threatened nor beat up in school (well, maybe most. I do know some kids that deserved the beating and the threat prior to the beating) but I can't help but wonder if this is another case of parental over-reaction. Kids do say and do stupid things. I am sure all the attention over their stupid act has likely made them fully realize that actions have consequences. Let it drop.

If another case comes up and the kids still haven't learned, I am all for throwing the book at them.

Of course threats of violence should never be tolerated but the underlying issue as to whether we have the freedom of speech to denounce homosexuality as a corruption of human sexuality is also at the core of this incident. As it stands now the left-wing are trying to deny people their right to equal representation under the law on how this issue is dealt with in the public square. The left-wing are acting as a fascist political entity that want to have the Court dictate to people how to treat this issue. The big lie being told by the left-wing is that a person’s sexual behavior is equivalent to a person’s race. Homosexuality is a behavior and not a race. No doctor or scientist can predict the future sexual behavior of a new-born. It is very troubling that we see Courts side with these left-wing fascists in order to dictate that we all march in lockstep with their beliefs.

Perhaps reading comprehension is a thing of the past; however, if it were within the realm of possibility, the argument made one way or the other would have a better chance of deeming consideration. The article clearly states that others, “…incorrectly labeled him as gay…”; therefore, speaking out about “homosexuality” is not at issue. At issue is slander and, which seems lost in the ignorant mix, death threats against one who is innocent. I’m a white male and a Christian to boot and as one, may I ask that those who attempt to defend my cause please only do so with at least a grasp of what is being related, for example in this article? Thank you.

It's crazy! The standard for freedom of speech is pretty straightforward and courts cannot deny it for the sake of appease minority groups!

 
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