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Students rally to support suspended SMN teacher

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Shawnee Mission North students rallied for a teacher who was suspended two weeks before graduation. American government teacher Ben Keech, known as outspoken and not always politically correct, was suspended by the Shawnee Mission School District.

His suspension has students upset, who say they relate to his no-nonsense style. “Let Keech Teach” was the mantra Wednesday outside of Shawnee Mission North High School.

Students plan to rally every day this week to show support for Keech. As part of his class, Keech teaches about the United States Constitution, the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Students exercised theirs on Wednesday.

“He will fight for what’s right, whether it sounds right or not. He is ready to stand up for what he needs to say,” one student said.

Keech has been suspended with pay, because of a comment he made in a lecture about obscenity laws and how they relate to pornography today versus before the Internet. Rachel Landauer was in that class and said her teacher really isn’t offensive.

''Absolutely not, no. It wasn't offensive in any way. If anything, it was funny,” she said.

Keech encourages students to hang funny or interesting sayings from class on his desk. They are called 'Keech Quotes' which is also his Twitter handle. Keech's Twitter page has been taken down, but some of his posts talk about Antioch Park being 'little Mexico', and asking if it is better to be misfits together or queer together.

“In my opinion, it's his personal Twitter account. If you don't like the stuff he posts then you shouldn't be following him and honestly, students shouldn't be following teachers anyway on social media websites and stuff like that,” another student said.

Landauer said it is the special way Keech relates to the students that makes him such a great teacher.

“My grandma passed away and my grades were falling and he understood that. He gave me extra time on all of my assignments and he really understood and sympathized with me when that happened,” she said.

Some seniors said they were told if they participate in rallies for Keech, they would not be able to walk in their graduation ceremony.

“If they don't want me to walk across the stage for standing up for my teacher, then so be it. I really don`t care,” said another student at the rally.

FOX 4 spoke to a representative from the district Wednesday, who said she could not comment on personnel matters. Keech has hired an attorney and has a hearing with the Shawnee Mission School District Monday.

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