ACLU sues Lacey schools for students' gun rights
LACEY - The Lacey Township School District is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter and a Hackensack-based law firm on behalf of two students who say their rights were violated last year after they posted a picture of guns on social media.
Lacey Township High School student Cody Conroy and a friend identified in the lawsuit only as H.S. posted a picture on the Snapchat social-media app of legally owned guns on a table and were suspended by school administrators as a result, according to the ACLU. Take a look at the photo gallery above, where the Union Hill Gun Club gave Lacey students free firearms training.
One of the posts had no caption and the other read “hot stuff” and “If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, you know where to go," according to the ACLU.
“When I was pulled into the principal’s office for something I shared with my friends privately, outside of school, over a weekend, it felt like I had no place where I could truly speak freely,” H.S. said in a news release from the ACLU. The organization is withholding his name because he was a minor at the time of the incident.
The school district faced heated criticism last year after news of the students' suspensions enraged Second Amendment advocates and residents throughout Lacey.
School officials at the time said that they could not discuss details of the incident because it would violate the students' privacy, but that they were not suspended under the district's weapons policies.
District Superintendent Vanessa Clark and board attorney Christopher Supsie could not be reached for comment.
Gun-rights advocates sponsored a firearms training and safety program for Lacey students after controversy over a photo of students posing with guns. Asbury Park Press
The ACLU says school district officials overstepped their constitutional boundaries when the students were suspended.
“I’m filing this suit so that no one at my high school in the future has to feel like the First Amendment wasn’t meant to include them,” Cody Conroy, the other student who was suspended for the Snapchat messages, said in the news release from the ACLU.
In their lawsuit, the teenagers are seeking:
- A statement from the district saying their constitutional rights were violated, for their permanent student records.
- A promise from the district not to discipline students for constitutionally protect speech outside of school.
- Revisions to school policies to reflect that promise.
“The technology for communicating ideas may change, but the fundamental principle remains the same: Young people have the right to express themselves, and, with rare exceptions, they shouldn’t face punishment by school administrators for it,” C.J. Griffin of the law firm Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, who, along with the ACLU-NJ, represents the students, said in the news release.
Amanda Oglesby: @OglesbyAPP; 732-557-5701; firstname.lastname@example.org