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SMSD approves lawsuit settlement with ACLU over student free speech

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Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 23:30:31-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The ACLU of Kansas said it settled a lawsuit Tuesday with the Shawnee Mission School District involving student free speech.

“We’re pleased about school district measures to ensure future students will not have their free speech rights violated at school,” Lauren Bonds, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said.

The lawsuit stems from a student-organized protest last year against gun violence.

The ACLU of Kansas sued on behalf of three students and their parents, alleging the school district violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech when school officials stopped students.

According to one student who spoke about the issue during an April 2018 School Board Meeting, an associate principal allegedly limited student speech and tried to take away student journalists’ cameras.

“He said we were not allowed to cover the event because he did not approve of the subject matter,” the student said.

A special Shawnee Mission School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to approve the settlement.

The school board approved the settlement in a special meeting Tuesday night.

The district said in a statement, "The Shawnee Mission School District strongly supports the rights of all students to free expression, and will continue to work with staff and students to ensure that those rights are respected and protected."

The district said it will comment further once the settlement is approved by the court.