By Zoe Brown, KCTV5
JOHNSON COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -- The Shawnee Mission School District has settled a lawsuit filed against them by the ACLU.
The suit stems from last April, when students in Johnson County and across the country planned protests against gun violence and school shootings.
The ACLU claims administrators ended the protests at Shawnee Mission North and Hocker Grove Middle School.
The two parties came to an agreement this afternoon.
The school district then released the following statement:
"The Shawnee Mission School District has reached agreement with the plaintiffs in the Erin Chudley, et. Al. v. Shawnee Mission School District #512 court case. In order to minimize the uncertainty, delay and expense of further litigation, the parties have agreed to:
• Collaborate on First Amendment training for all district administrators;
• Adopt policy language in the district that clarifies the rights of students to direct the content of non-school sponsored, student-organized events, while maintaining the district’s right to avoid situations which materially disrupt or interfere with the rights of others; and,
• Adopt policy language in the district which clarifies the first-amendment rights of student journalists.
In addition, the district has agreed to apologize to the plaintiffs and, without admitting any liability, pay nominal damages of $1 to each plaintiff; and to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and costs associated with the case in the amount of $40,000.
'We are pleased that we have finally been able to sit down and come to agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) so that we can continue to move forward,' said Dr. Mike Fulton, Shawnee Mission superintendent. 'Our focus must be on preparing each student for life-success when they leave us, and the settlement will help us to continue our focus on teaching and learning.'
Last Spring, students across the country planned protests against gun violence and school shootings. The protests were planned for a National School Walkout on April 20, 2018. While some school districts did not permit walkouts, SMSD worked with student groups to organize the walkouts in a way that would keep students safe and minimize disruption to the school environment. In most schools, the walkouts took place without incident. At North High School and Hocker Grove Middle School, disagreements about how to handle the protests led to differing opinions between administrators and students.
Plaintiffs in this case – three students from North High School and Hocker Grove Middle School, complained that school administrators violated their First Amendment rights by restricting the content of their speeches, while SMSD maintains that its actions complied with the First Amendment and were taken to keep students safe and maintain order. The ACLU sent communications on the students’ behalf shortly after the walkouts. SMSD was still investigating the incidents and working with the ACLU towards resolving these claims when the ACLU filed suit.
The agreement, which settles all claims between the parties, was accepted by the Court today."