Conservative Student Group Files Discrimination Suit Against Edina High School

Attorney Erick Kaardal announces the lawsuit Thursday. Photo: KSTP/Joe Caffrey
Attorney Erick Kaardal announces the lawsuit Thursday.

December 07, 2017 06:01 PM

Attorneys have filed a discrimination lawsuit against Edina High School after they say school officials disbanded a conservative student group in the wake of a spat that started with a Veteran's Day protest in November. 

Attorney Erick Kaardal announced the suit on behalf of the Edina High School Young Conservatives Club Thursday. 

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According to Kaardal, the incident began after the student group posted a video to one of its social media pages denouncing a group of students who had allegedly refused to stand for the National Anthem and subsequent playing of "Taps" during a Veteran's Day event at the school Nov. 9. 

In a statement to parents four days after the event, Superintendent John Schultz characterized the protest as peaceful.

After the video was posted, Kaardal says, members of the conservative club received a rash of threats and were labeled racists in social media posts, including one showing a masked individual using the moniker "EHS Antifa."

The attorney says tensions escalated in the ensuing days on social media between students upset with the video post and the conservative group. Schultz's letter to parents, dated Nov. 13, called the masked students' post "inflammatory and creepy," but said an administration and police investigation found no "credible or legal threat against any EHS, or any Edina student, staff member or school."

The letter said an investigation continues to identify responsible parties.

The school later disbanded the conservative student group, Kaardal says. In a release, Kaardal quoted the school's reason for the termination was that the group "criticized the school's policies supporting the organized student protest at the November 9, 2017, Edina High School Veterans Day Program."

The lawsuit names as defendants Edina High School, Principal Andy Beaton, the Edina School District and Superintendent John Schultz. 
Earlier Thursday, the district said it had not yet received a notice of or copy of the suit, and "as such cannot comment on topics or questions that may or may not be included in threatened or pending litigation

"Edina Public Schools respects and adheres to state and federal laws in regard to the free speech rights of all students and staff. The District welcomes and encourages opportunities for ongoing discourse and respectful dialogue on topics that serve to benefit our students, families and community."

Among the allegations is that the school violated the students' rights under the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act. It also says the "U.S. Flag Code preempts Edina High School policy requiring students to "respect" those who protest the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag during Veterans Day programs by kneeling or sitting," according to the release.
 

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Michael Oakes

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