The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the arrest of a reportedly white 16-year-old Connecticut youth for allegedly posting a racially abusive screed online directed at a black classmate.
The civil rights legal organization believes that the arrest of the youth was an unconstitutional breach of his First Amendment right to free speech, the Daily Mail reported.
Warning: Racial language
The student charged allegedly took a picture of classmate Jamar Medor, who is black, sitting in a classroom at Fairfield Warde High School and posted it to Snapchat May 7 with the caption, “Why is there a [n-word] in my homeroom? Why is he not in chains?”
The youth who allegedly posed the image and caption was subsequently arrested and charged with a hate crime in the state, and while other civil rights groups like the NAACP were supportive, the ACLU is warning that the arrest and criminal actions are a violation of a fundamental constitutional right.
“Having racist ideas or sharing racist ideas is something that we actually protect,” said senior staff attorney Emerson Sykes, according to the Daily Mail. “Even if that viewpoint is offensive, even if it’s deplorable, we don’t want the government making the call about what’s OK to say and think and what is not. But we have limitations on that right.”
The attorney nonetheless said that school officials are within their rights to take disciplinary action against the offending youth over his post.
The Daily Mail noted that while a petition calling for the boy to be expelled in the wake of his post says that has happened, school officials would not confirm or deny that citing his right to privacy.
In addition to a hate crime, the boy has also reportedly been charged with a breach of the peace, which reportedly resulted in a 10-day suspension, the outlet reported.
The crime under which the white youth has been charged dates back to 1917, according to the Daily Mail, but has been criticized as unconstitutional by the ACLU of Connecticut and several law school professors.
And though students have often been disciplined by school officials for racially insensitive comments, “police and free speech groups said it is unusual for students to be arrested for what they say on social media if it does not involve threats, incitement or a pattern of harassment,” the Daily Mail added.
The Rev. D. Stanley Lord, president of the NAACP chapter, has also called for the arrest and prosecution of another case the following day involving someone who allegedly called the brother of Medor on the phone and used a racial slur.
Police are said to be investigating the second incident but have yet to take any action, as of this writing.
“It was shocking,” said Lord regarding the Snapchat post. “We have to send a strong message that behavior like this won’t be tolerated in any school system.”
Medor, who is also 16, told WABC-TV that he had never experienced any racist incidents at school before, but that he stayed home one day recently — presumably after the incident became known — because he did not feel at ease.
“I just had no words when I saw it. I was so confused,” he told the local outlet.
Medor’s mother Judith has also called for the offending youth to be permanently expelled.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do to my son… I’m worried for his safety,” she told WABC-TV.
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