Last summer, as people across the country reported terrifying creepy clown sightings, a 12-year-old boy from Montgomery, Ohio, was reportedly arrested at his middle school and suspended for the comments he made on an Instagram page for "scary clowns." Now, that boy's parents are suing his school, the arresting officer, and the county prosecutor, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday. In September, John and Catherine Wood's son—referred to as C.W. in the complaint—apparently heard from friends about the hoards of clowns that were allegedly terrorizing Southern neighborhoods. According to the Associated Press, he then visited Clown.Clann—one of many Instagram pages dedicated to the viral hoax and its fandom—and wrote "DUMB FUCKS COME TO SYCAMORE YOU WON'T" and "I'll square up to those [clowns]."
According to the complaint, the posts were up on the page for two hours before C.W. deleted them, but apparently that was enough time for them to lead to "tragic consequences." He was cuffed during a test and arrested in front of his peers by the Montgomery City Police Department the next day.
Though C.W. was only suspended for ten days for violating his school's code of conduct, the complaint says that the Hamilton County Prosectors Office is still pursuing charges against him. After an initial "inducing panic" charge was dropped, they decided to go after him for harassment and causing public alarm. The lawsuit his parents filed this week is aiming to get all his charges dropped and seeks damages for "emotional distress."
"C.W. made these non-curricular social media posts using his own phone, using his own Instagram account, from within his home, and after school hours," the complaint alleges. "The defendants knew that C.W.'s 13 words were not directed at any fellow student or school official or any particular individual."
The Woods's lawsuit is the latest in a growing series of complaints stemming from schools applying zero-tolerance policies to students who use controversial or racist speech on social media. Experts say that these zero-tolerance policies were initially enacted to punish kids who brought guns and drugs to school, and that administrators are being lazy in doling out potentially life-altering punishments like suspension and expulsion for issues that involve free speech.
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