Shawnee Mission Schools want ACLU lawsuit against them dismissed

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Shawnee Mission School District is asking the U.S. District Court in Kansas to dismiss a lawsuit against them by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of student first amendment rights.

The district filed the motion in August saying that the complaint doesn’t assert allegations amounting to Constitutional violations, and that former interim superintendent, Dr. Kenneth Southwick, was entitled to qualified immunity and couldn’t be held personally liable for district customs or policies.

The ACLU says the district is arguing that it’s within its rights to interrupt protests, take student journalists’ cameras and discipline students who participated in the April 20 rallies –  a nationwide protest where students walked out of their classrooms denouncing gun violence in schools.

“This is disappointing,” ACLU’s Legal Director Lauren Bonds stated in a news release. “Instead of simply acknowledging their violation of student first amendment rights, the district appears to be doubling down on the mistakes they’ve made.“

Some students said they faced suspensions or detentions in retaliation for participating in the rallies. One Shawnee Mission North student journalist said a teacher ordered her to hand over her camera when she covered the rally for her student newspaper.

Bonds said, “We understand school administrators have a responsibility to maintain order, but those responsibilities do not extend to denying students’ rights to free speech nor restricting their freedom of press rights. Students don’t leave their first amendment rights at the school steps.”