Tina Burnside, CNN
The family of a teenage Florida girl who was falsely accused and arrested for making threats against her former school via social media has filed a lawsuit against the school and Meta, the parent company of Instagram, in connection with the incident.
In the 12-page lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Broward County Circuit Court, the mother of the child who previously attended Renaissance Charter School, stated that her daughter suffered mental and emotional distress after spending 11 days in juvenile detention for a crime she didn’t commit.
The 13-year-old was arrested last November by the Pembroke Pines Police Department and charged with a second-degree felony “for making a written threat to do bodily harm or commit an act of terrorism” after police investigated threatening messages sent via Instagram towards students and staff at Renaissance Charter School at Pine, according to a police news release.
Charges against the girl were later dropped, Pembroke Pines Police said in a news release February 10.
Police said in the release that it wasn’t until the victim’s mother began cooperating about a month after the initial arrest, that investigators were able to obtain specific information which prompted them to apply for a subpoena for the I.P. addresses associated with the threatening messages.
“At the time of our initial investigation in November 2021, the family of the victim chose to exercise their rights and did not cooperate with investigators,” the police statement said.
Marwan Porter, attorney for the girl’s family, disputes the claim that the victim’s mother was uncooperative, telling CNN during a phone interview on Thursday that the mother invited law enforcement to her home before the arrest, and even provided police with the device that was allegedly used to make the threatening messages. “The fact that they said the mother didn’t cooperate adds insult to injury,” Porter said.
Based on new evidence, police arrested a 12-year-old female student who also attended Renaissance Charter School, for “maliciously impersonating” the girl “by using her information to create an email address and open multiple Instagram accounts.” Police said the suspect used the fake accounts to send multiple threatening messages, and intentionally lied to law enforcement and school staff to frame the victim.
According to the lawsuit, prior to the incident, the 13-year-old was removed from Renaissance Charter School by her mother, who claims the school failed to act after being notified several times that the girl was the subject of “relentless attacks” and “unabated” bullying by her classmates.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the civil rights of the teen’s parents, intentional infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution by failing to properly investigate the allegations against the teen “and her easily proven denial of those allegations.”
The suit also accuses Instagram of negligence for breach of duty stating that it failed to protect its users from “fake” accounts.
In a statement to CNN, Colleen Reynolds, spokesperson for Renaissance Charter School at Pines said, “Our highest priority remains the safety and security of our students. We always have and always will take all appropriate actions to ensure our students and staff are safe. We do not comment on pending litigation.”
The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $30,000.
CNN has contacted the Pembroke Pines Police Department, Instagram and Meta for comment and have yet to hear back.
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