OAK PARK (CBSLA.com) — Some Oak Park parents are suing the school district after they said their kids were suspended for four days in 2014 for making a Hitler joke on social media.
The parents conceded to CBS2’s Amy Johnson that the joke might have gone too far. But they also want to defend their kids’ right to free speech.
“I don’t think it’s funny; my husband doesn’t think it’s funny,” said Kristi Pollard.
She told Johnson that she wasn’t defending jokes her son Jared tweeted but says the school went too far.
“I don’t like those kinds of jokes. But I grew up in the generation where people said, ‘I might not agree with that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ This is America.”
It was April 20, 2014, Adolf Hitler’s birthday, when her then 16-year-old son Jared tweeted and re-tweeted jokes about Hitler with some friends.
Those jokes ultimately lead to a four-day suspension from Oak Park High School for Pollard and a few other students, including Scotland Yannello.
“When you make a mistake, you get corrected,” said Pollard, “but I’m the one who corrects it. Especially if it happens in my home on a Sunday night.”
Pollard and the Yannello family have filed a lawsuit against Oak Park Unified School District and the principal of Oak Park High School.
The public outcry “from half information was brutal and cruel,” said Pollard.
She says the school didn’t immediately take action. She says the suspension happened weeks later after another parent sent out hundreds of emails about the tweets.
“I thought it was going to die down and that nothing would happen. Definitely the parent that started this whole thing; it just blew up. I understand both sides of the situation,” said student Kenny Park.
Plenty of students remember the tweets.
“I think what they did was wrong, and they deserved the sonsequences,” said Dean Kenig. “Me, myself, I’m Jewish, so I found it very offensive.”
But Pollard says the job of disciplining her child for wrongdoing is her job, not the school’s.
“And I want my children not to be scared at school,” Pollard said. “I want them to be learning at school. I brought this suit because it’s illegal to do that to children. And if I don’t protect them, who will? I love them.”
Johnson reached out to the school district, but officials said they could not comment because they have not seen the lawsuit and because it concerns students, and they have to respect their privacy.