ALBANY — A judge has ruled that the Albany school district cannot hold expulsion hearings or new disciplinary action against four students that were suspended for their role in a racist Instagram posting incident at Albany High School, before the court can hold a hearing and decide on the case.
Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court issued on Friday a temporary restraining order on expulsion hearings or new discipline against the students, who filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the district and administrators, claiming their First Amendment rights to free speech were violated.
Donato upheld the students’ First Amendment rights and their claim that they would endure irreparable harm if they were to be wrongly expelled for their involvement in what was off-campus speech on Instagram, especially as some of the students will be seniors, entering the college admission process. Also he said that the fact the students filing the lawsuit did not post the racially offensive images, but rather “liked” or commented on them, was a factor in his decision. He also agreed that their concerns about the school and district violating the First Amendment are “clearly ‘serious enough to require litigation,’ ” according to court documents.
However, he denied the students’ request to order the school district to remove any and all record of disciplinary action related to the incident and to allow them to make up any work missed as a result of their suspensions.
Rather, this issue and other disciplinary…
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