Students suing over punishment after Nixon protest - KCTV5

Students suing over punishment after Nixon protest

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Some Kansas City Public Schools students are suing the district after they were punished for protesting during Gov. Jay Nixon's address to the school.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the civil rights lawsuit, alleging that the district violated the student's First Amendment rights to free speech. The lawsuit asks a judge to order the district to stop punishing the students.

The district says the students were punished for refusing to sit down during Nixon's address which came during the height of tensions over his handling of unrest in Ferguson after Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown.

On Nov. 20, Nixon addressed students at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. The ACLU says 14 students stood up and held their hands up in a sign of surrender, which has been adopted by protestors following Brown's death.

Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up in the air when Wilson shot the unarmed teen. A St. Louis County grand jury cleared Wilson of any wrongdoing, and some witnesses said Brown had attacked the officer.

After the students stood up, they were immediately ushered out and sent home. The ACLU says the students were initially given a 10-day suspension, but district administrators later changed that to Saturday school detention.

ACLU representatives said the students were exercising their constitutional rights.

"The school should be proud to have taught their students to be confident in their right to express themselves to the governor," said Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri.

The U.S. Constitution doesn't allow administrators to punish students just because they think they will bring negative attention to the district, said Sarah Rossi, a director for the ACLU.

The district has yet to be served with the paperwork. District spokeswoman Eileen Houston Stewart issued the following release.

KCPS constantly strives to cultivate a safe and secure environment that fosters effective teaching and learning. During a Nov. 19 address by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon at Lincoln Prep, 12 students opted – of their own accord – to stage a silent protest. No student will be, or was disciplined, for exercising their rights to free expression. During Governor Nixon's visit, students were instructed to sit down by an administrator, but refused. It is for this refusal, students are facing discipline in accordance with the district's Code of Conduct. Administrators have spoken with the students and their parents about their behavior at the school. The students were not suspended.

The district said Nov. 19 in its statement, but Nixon's address was actually Nov. 20.

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