AP NEWS

Kansas district to apologize to students under settlement

March 28, 2019

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City school district has agreed to apologize to three students who alleged their free speech rights were violated during a national classroom walkout for gun control, according to the terms of a legal settlement.

Under the settlement between the Shawnee Mission School District and the American Civil Liberties Union that was made public Tuesday, administrators and teachers will also undergo First Amendment training and the district will adopt policies aimed at preventing censorship, The Kansas City Star reported. The district also can’t ban student journalists from campus events open to the student body and will pay $40,000 for the students’ attorney fees.

During the nationwide student walkout last April to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, administrators in the Shawnee Mission School District confiscated a high school student journalist’s camera, according to the lawsuit. District officials also forced an eighth grade middle school student from a speaking platform and ended the student-organized event early after she said, “The real issue is gun violence.” The eighth-grader was suspended along with several other students for protesting the cancellation.

Administrators had barred students from discussing guns, gun control and school shootings during the events, the lawsuit contended. Statements made later by officials indicated that they felt doing so would protect a public institution from taking “a stand one way or the other on Second Amendment rights.”

As of late November, the district, which is the state’s third largest, had spent more than $36,000 on legal fees associated with the case.

Officials from the district and ACLU declined to discuss the settlement, which still needs the approval of a judge.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com