KC students who protested during Gov. Nixon’s speech won’t face punishment

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lincoln Prep students faced punishment after standing with their hands in the air in protest while Missouri Governor Jay Nixon spoke at their school last November.  It became the subject of a federal lawsuit between the Kansas City Missouri school district and the ACLU , which was settled on Monday.

The school district release a statement saying the agreement was mutual, with no admission of liability. Governor Nixon was set to congratulate Lincoln Prep for its national blue ribbon award during his speech.  That's when students started putting their hands in the air, in protest of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

"They stood in the back of the auditorium, they were non-disruptive. They knew that they were just expressing a message to the governor. They weren't there to disrupt the assembly," said Gillian Wilcox, a staff attorney for ACLU Missouri.

She was shocked to hear that the college-bound students faced not only punishment, but a permanent mark on their records for violating student code.
Two of the 13 students who protested were named in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

"We maintained that they have a first amendment right to protest the way they did silently and in a non-disruptive manner, and that punishment of their acts would violate those first amendment rights," said Wilcox.

The district claims that the proposed punishment had nothing to do with the protest, but rather the students refusal to follow directions. In a statement, the district said that students were blocking cameras and photographer covering the speech, which prompted the students to be removed.

Both sides were prepared to battle it out in court, when a movie put an end to the three-month dispute. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver invited area school kids, including some named in the lawsuit to watch the movie "Selma", chronicling the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his peaceful protest tactics in the battle for civil right.

After the movie district, administrators and the ACLU reached a settlement. The students will not be punished.
The school district won't pay any damages or attorneys fees as part of the agreement.