ACLU sues to stop KC school discipline in November protest

The mother of a Lincoln College Preparatory Academy student sued the Kansas City School District on Monday, seeking to stop the district from punishing her daughter for participating in a Ferguson-related protest.

The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, focuses on how the district reacted Nov. 20, when 14 students raised their hands, as if to surrender, during an assembly appearance by Gov. Jay Nixon.

According to the suit, school administrators ushered the students out of the auditorium, sent them home and threatened them with a 10-day suspension. The district finally settled on a single day of detention, to be served on a Saturday, Jan. 10.

“School administrators cannot punish students for communications they think will bring negative attention to the school,” said Sarah Rossi, the Missouri ACLU’s director of advocacy and policy, in a written statement. “The First Amendment does not permit that.”

Press reports from the event noted that the protest was not disruptive.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the suit on behalf of Karen Morrison, whose daughter — identified only as “M.M.” in court paperwork — attends Lincoln Prep.

“The students are now fearful of expressing their opinions and viewpoints while they are at school, even in a non-disruptive manner, because they reasonably fear they will again be punished,” the suit stated.

The suit seeks only “nominal damages,” attorney fees and an injunction barring the school from further disciplining the students and recording the discipline in the students’ records.

A spokeswoman for the schools said the district had not yet been served with the suit and does not comment on pending litigation. She referred to an earlier statement which emphasized that students faced discipline for refusing to obey an administrator’s instruction to sit down, not for exercising their rights to free expression.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.