Photo: The Chronicle / Natasha Dangond
A federal lawsuit against Albany High School alleges that four students suspended for following, “liking” or commenting were brought before a makeshift public square at the East Bay campus where their incensed peers hurled obscenities and berated them.
The suit contends the youths were wrongly suspended and their First Amendment rights infringed. Through their attorneys, the four suspended juniors asked a federal judge to expunge their records of the matter and allow them to make up classwork missed during their suspensions. Their lawyers, Darryl Yorkey and Alan Beck, also seek reimbursement of their fees and unspecified damages.
The lawsuit also names the Albany Unified School District as a defendant.
Albany police started probing “racially insensitive” photos posted to a private Instagram account run by one student in March, and the suit alleges that the racist images came to light after a student took screenshots of the offensive pictures and reported them to administrators.
Laurie Roberts, a parent of an uninvolved student at the school, told The Chronicle that .
Beck said student anger at the school, whose student body is less than 5 percent black, culminated March 30 with what the lawsuit says was an “atonement” exercise orchestrated by school administrators when the suspended students returned. Up to 15 involved students, including Beck’s four plaintiffs, were “lined up in full view” of the student body to be screamed at, Beck said.
The suit charges school officials did not provide adequate security for the disciplined students — saying two were struck in the head on their way out — and only stopped the exercise after a parent of one of the students complained.
“The school humiliated our clients and put them in a position of danger where several were assaulted,” Beck said.
In a statement, Valerie Williams, the superintendent of the Albany Unified School District, said the district is reviewing the lawsuit and intends to respond in court.
“The district takes great care to ensure that our students feel safe at school, and we are committed to providing an inclusive and respectful learning environment for all of our students,” Williams said.