The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting the expulsion of three Northwest Indiana girls for a Facebook conversation that some perceived as threatening.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Griffith Public Schools saying the conversation was "clearly meant to be humorous, as evidenced by their repeated use of emoticons such as ;)…” The organization said the expulsion violated the eighth graders' freedom of speech. The conversation was held on personal computers, outside of school.
The girls insist it was all a bad joke.
"It was just very dumb, and I wish I could take it back," said 14-year-old Sabrina Munsie.
"We were just joking around," said 14-year-old Kennedy Fortier. "It hurts me that they thought I would really do something like that, because I would not. I regret everything I did."
According to a police report, portions of a Facebook conversation between Munsie, Kennedy Fortier and a fellow student include Girl 1 writing: "Lets kill the girl were talking about right now?"
Girl 2 types back "IM DOWN. its about time..."
Later Girl 1 writes: "I wanna kill people." Girl 2 responds, "ii wish uu wouldn't get caught, cos (expletive), half thee school would be gone by now..."
Their classmate, 14-year-old Courtney Tinsely, was mentioned in that conversation.
"I felt really hurt and upset, and I started to cry," Tinsely said.
Regina Webb, Tinsely's mom, said she doesn't see how anyone could convey the conversation as a joke. "It's unacceptable," she said.
"All around the nation bullying is getting people shot and killed in schools," said Tim Tinsley, Courtney Tinsely's dad.
The students were expelled, but will be allowed to return to school next year.
Fortier's parents said the conversation was inappropriate, but they call the punishment too harsh.
"They were just talking, just talking garbage, just teenage banter," said Tabitha Fortier.
"I didn't think it was acceptable, but it wasn't something they should get expelled over," said Bonnie Martin-Nolan.
But Courtney Tinsley’s family isn’t laughing.
"There's no reason why there should be a lawsuit against the school," Tinsley said. "They did nothing wrong, except for try to protect me."
An attorney for the school district did not a return a phone call for comment.