The Buzz

ACLU criticizes punishment of protesting Lincoln High students

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has written a letter to the principal of Lincoln College Preparatory Academy — claiming any attempt to punish students who recently protested there would be unconstitutional.

Last week a dozen students stood during a speech by Gov. Jay Nixon and raised their hands over their heads, an apparent reference to protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death of a suspect there.

The students did not disrupt the speech and left shortly after they stood up. It isn’t clear if the walkout was a part of the protest or if the students were told to leave.

The school district later said the students would face discipline. Some sources suggested they would be required to spend some time in school on a Saturday.

But in a letter sent last week the ACLU said such punishment would be unconstitutional.

“The Academy should embrace and applaud its students for thinking independently and possessing the courage of their convictions,” the letter said. “Standing up to a powerful government official in a peaceful, respectful way is a sign of mature and thoughtful participation in civil discourse.”

The ACLU did not say if it would pursue any legal action if the punishments were imposed.

Asked about the incident later, Nixon said he understood the students’ concerns, but that punishment should be left to school officials.