A student in the Kansas City School District is suing to stop her school from punishing her after she and thirteen other students silently protested during a school visit from Governor Jay Nixon.
The Lincoln College Preparatory Academy student -- identified only as M.M. in the lawsuit -- and thirteen of her classmates were sentenced to a Saturday school detention after they silently stood in the back of the school auditorium with their hands raised in the "Hands up, don't shoot" gesture as Nixon spoke.
Three days before he visited the school to talk about education, Nixon had declared a state of emergency and activated the Missouri National Guard to protect Ferguson from protests expected after the grand jury decided whether to charge Darren Wilson, the then-Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, with a crime.
According to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Missouri, the students were protesting "the relationship between police and the community, the frequency with which police officers shoot unarmed black men, the militarization of local police forces, and the response of government officials and law enforcement to the killing of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed his death."
Nixon told media he supported the students' dedication and activism but would leave possible punishments up to the school.
"When young people get engaged and interested, it's good for the system," Nixon told KMBC-TV in Kansas City. "I don't mean to say they should stand up during a speech to the Governor. That's up to the school and whatever the rules are on that sort of stuff."
School officials escorted the protesting students out of the auditorium and originally threatened them with a ten-day suspension. According to the lawsuit, vice principal Steven Evans said the protest had made the school "look bad" and that students should "go to Ferguson" if they wanted to speak out.
"School administrators cannot punish students for communications they think will bring negative attention to the school," says Sarah Rossi, the ACLU of Missouri's director of advocacy and policy. "The First Amendment does not permit that."
Later, the school sent the students a letter saying they were assigned to Saturday school detention for refusing to follow directions or comply with school rules.
But the ACLU of Missouri argues that the student's actions were protected under the Constitution, especially since she stayed silent in the back of the auditorium and did not disrupt the program.
"This student was exercising her constitutional rights by expressing the message that she stood in solidarity with other protesters across Missouri and the country after the death of Michael Brown," says Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. "The school should be proud to have taught their students to be confident in their right to express themselves to the Governor."
The ACLU of Missouri's civil rights lawsuit asks a judge to stop the school from punishing student M.M. for her protest.
Here's the full lawsuit:
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