A lawsuit filed in federal court argues school officials supported a walk-out by students advocating gun control while attempting to muzzle opposition.
Named as defendants in the suit are a host of Hononegah Community High School administrators in Rockton, Illinois who, as outlined in court filings, allowed one group of students to protest in response to the Feb.14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida while at the same time marginalizing a smaller group of youth who felt differently.
Madison Oster, 16, feels the best way to protect students while on campus is to “harden” schools with measures such as metal detectors and armed guards rather than implement more gun regulations. In response to a well-planned March for Our Lives rally to be held at the school’s football field on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting to support an anti-gun agenda, Oster planned a counter-protest with a few like-minded students. Beforehand, her father, Jeremy, cleared the protest with school officials.
However, on the day of the rally, the younger Oster and five supporters were kept about 95 yards away from the estimated 100 to 150 anti-gun students engaged in the sanctioned walk-out. When the youth protested, they were called “troublemakers,” by a school official who later made the Second Amendment advocates stand by while the larger group was walked past them, twice, refusing to halt the larger group’s claimed taunting of Oster and those who shared her opinions.
The HCHS junior felt so bullied as a result of the walk-out interaction that she missed the next week of classes while her father filed a grievance that was denied by the district’s superintendent. In April, the state’s ACLU chapter criticized the school for the alleged discrimination of Oster’s First Amendment rights during the walkout event, although HCHS officials downplayed the incident.
The lawsuit filed this week, backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, holds that school officials failed to allow Oster a chance to engage meaningfully in the protest, held during school hours, and permitted hazing by the larger group of classmates as faculty looked on.
“Social prejudice is wrong, no matter who is practicing or enabling it,” said SAF founder Alan Gottlieb in a statement. “It is unconscionable for school officials to allow this sort of thing, much less enable it. That’s why we’re supporting Madison and her father. Students with different viewpoints retain their free speech rights. When school officials allow those students to be harassed and bullied, something must be done.”
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages as well as costs and attorney’s fees. An initial status hearing is set for Sept. 27.