A federal lawsuit alleging the violation of a group of Shawnee Mission School District students’ first amendment rights can proceed, Chief United States District Judge Julie Robinson has ruled.
The ACLU of Kansas, which represents the students, filed the suit in May. The suit stems from National Walkout Day demonstrations last year in which students wanted to express their concerns about gun violence.
Students reported that school officials forbid them from uttering the words “gun violence,” abruptly shortened student demonstrations, confiscated student speeches and student journalists’ cameras, and retaliated against some students for participating in the rallies.
“We’re encouraged by Judge Robinson’s ruling,” said Lauren Bonds, interim executive director of the ACLU of Kansas. “Her order says what we’ve maintained all along – that our clients have plausible claims that the district violated their first amendment rights.”
School district’s attorneys filed a motion to have the claims dismissed in September. As of late November, the district had spent more than $36,000 on legal fees associated with the case.
Additionally, Judge Robinson said a SM North administrator’s confiscation of a student journalist’s camera also could be interpreted as a violation of student 1st Amendment rights.
Robinson did grant, however, the school district’s lawyers’ request to toss claims against Kenny Southwick, who was serving as interim superintendent at the time, as an individual.
Judge Robinson’s arrives just four days before the parties are scheduled to meet with a judge for a conference on potential settlement of the case.
The attorneys for the district and for the students submitted a joint request to extend the discovery deadline to April 19 from the original cutoff date of Feb. 22.
A trial on the matter is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 3, 2019 should the parties not settle the case prior.