FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2019
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
OVERLAND PARK, KS - The Shawnee Mission School District will require First Amendment training for all administrators, adopt new policies for non-school sponsored events, offer apologies and $1 damage payments to the plaintiffs, and more, as part of settling a lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU of Kansas.
The settlement ends a protracted battle for student free speech and press rights that began when school administrators abruptly ended student anti-gun violence rallies, confiscated the cameras of student journalists covering the rallies, and punished some students for participating.
“The settlement is a victory for students across the Shawnee Mission School District,” said Lauren Bonds, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Kansas. “We’re pleased that the school district will install new policies and procedures to ensure students in the future will not have their free speech rights violated at school.”
While denying liability or that it violated any students’ rights under the first amendment or under the Kansas Student Publications Act, the district will also:
- Adopt a policy prohibiting administrators from banning or excluding student journalists from on-campus events that are otherwise open to the student body, or confiscating student journalists’ equipment while they are attending such events, on the sole basis that they are student journalists;
- Agree to pay Plaintiffs’ counsel’s $40,000 in attorney's fees and costs associated with this case. Defendant agrees to remit payment for attorney’s fees and costs to Plaintiffs’ counsel within ten (10) days following the execution of this settlement agreement;
- Agree that the terms of this settlement shall not be confidential;
The Shawnee Mission School District had filed a motion in September to have student claims dismissed but last month, Chief United States District Court Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the case could continue. As of late November, the district had spent more than $36,000 on legal fees associated with the case.
Judge Robinson’s decision arrived just days before the parties were scheduled to meet with a judge for a settlement conference. A trial date had tentatively been set for December.
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.