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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Silent School Protest Ends Up in Court

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - The Kansas City School District unconstitutionally punished 14 students for standing silently with their arms raised when the governor spoke at an assembly, a student and her mom claim in court.

M.M. and her mother, Karen Morrison, sued the school district on Monday in Federal Court.

M.M. claims that she and 13 other students stood silently with their hands raised on Nov. 20 as Gov. Jay Nixon addressed an assembly at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. They were protesting Nixon's decision to activate the National Guard in anticipation of the St. Louis County grand jury decision on whether to indict police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

M.M. claims that the student protesters intentionally sat in the back two rows, to cause the least amount of disruption, but were quickly removed from the assembly.

"The students were informed by school officials, including Vice Principal [Steven] Evans, that their expressive conduct made the school look bad, that they should not be expressing their personal opinions or beliefs during the assembly, and that they could go to Ferguson to address their concerns," the complaint states.

M.M. says school officials threatened them with a 10-day suspension and said they could be sued for disturbing the peace. Instead, they were sentenced to a Saturday detention, to be served on Jan. 10, the complaint states.

M.M. claims the students now fear expressing their viewpoints at school, even in a non-disruptive manner, for fear of punishment. She claims the school district has chilled her free speech, and the speech of other students.

"This student was exercising her constitutional rights by expressing the message that she stood in solidarity with other protesters across Missouri and the country after the death of Michael Brown," Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement. "The school should be proud to have taught their students to be confident in their right to express themselves to the governor."

M.M. wants the district enjoined from punishing her or from including her discipline in school records, and nominal damages for First Amendment violations.

She is represented by Anthony Rothert with the ACLU.

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