Barrington High students drop lawsuit over controversial photo

An attorney for six Barrington High School students has dropped a federal defamation lawsuit contending they were unconstitutionally disciplined after some of their peers saw a group photograph and mistook a girl's initials as alignment with the Ku Klux Klan.

Darcy Kriha, an attorney who represented Barrington Area Unit District 220 in the case, said the lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn during a status hearing Monday before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. Kriha said a settlement was not part of the "voluntary dismissal" on behalf of the six girls that was approved by the judge.

"The district was pleased with the outcome," Kriha said.

Thomas Lidbury, the students' attorney, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Along with District 220, Superintendent Brian Harris and Barrington High Principal Stephen McWilliams were named as defendants in the suit, filed on behalf of the six girls Aug. 7 in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Court papers say the photo taken at a "white out"-themed party was posted to social media and tagged with the host's initials, K.K.K. Another Barrington High student shared the photo on Twitter, calling for disciplinary action over the supposed link to the Klan, the suit says.

Other students "made it their summer project to instigate a virtual internet mob to threaten and pressure District 220 to involve itself and mete out punishment for the thought crime they imagined had occurred," the lawsuit states.

Court documents say school officials "hauled" the girls in for unwarranted interrogations over what was "patently protected free speech" that District 220 could not punish. But documents filed in a motion to dismiss the case state the girls never were disciplined nor deprived of any constitutional rights.

Harris said in July that officials easily identified eight girls in the image as Barrington High School students. The federal suit was filed on behalf of six of those students.

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