Albany parents furious over racist Instagram settlements for students

ALBANY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Albany School District has awarded students, who engaged with racist photos on social media, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For the first time, parents of students targeted in those posts confronted the school board about the money awarded.

"That's what those images meant to you? Did they mean money? So that you wouldn't get a bad reputation? What is wrong with you," exclaimed an Albany High School mom at Monday night's Albany School Board meeting.

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Parents are furious at the Albany School Board over lawsuits the district settled to the tune of $400,000 and counting.

One mom who did not want to be identified because she says she's become a target of racist websites described some of the posts, "images of herself compared to a gorilla and her friends with nooses tied around their necks."

"It was comparing her to an animal, like a lion, because of her red hair and freckles," says Cheryl Sudduth who's daughter, along with 12 other students and a teacher, were targets of the Instagram posts.

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Sudduth says after Albany High administrators found out about the offensive images, they along with the school district took inappropriate disciplinary action against the posters, one of whom was punched in the face by another student outside the school.

"There was a lot of raucous and then they were escorted, almost paraded through a crowd of students....It should have been handled in a much more structured way. I think the school failed in that regard."

Joseph Salama, an attorney for three of 13 students, challenged in court documents that the district and school took inappropriate disciplinary action against the students who interacted with the posts.

Lawyer Darryl Yorkey, who represents six of the students suing the Albany Unified School District, says his clients were involved in the Instagram photos as an original poster, commenters and followers.

"While we may not like the subject matter that this deals with, it may be uncomfortable, this is definitely a first amendment case," he says. "This is a clear example of a school board or a school district that has over-exceeded its bounds in disciplining kids."

RELATED: Albany students unite after racist Instagram protest

Yorkey says the school should not have disciplined the offending students at all.

"This was speech that occurred completely outside of school on a platform that wasn't sponsored by school amongst students on a private account."

In an open letter, parents from The Black Advisory Group, the Jewish Parent Engagement Steering Committee, and the Familias Latinas de Albany, listed demands to the school district Monday night, including compensating each of the students targeted by the Instagram posts.
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