The Washoe County School District in Nevada overturned a controversial school suspension related to student protests about gun control, the Reno Gazette Journal reported.
The suspension happened after McQueen High School junior Noah Christiansen used profanity toward a staffer working in the office of Rep. Mark Admodei (R-Nev.).
He reportedly told the staffer that “Congress people who are not acting on gun control reforms need to get off their f***ing asses and do something.”
When the staffer called the school to complain, Christiansen was hit with a two-day suspension. The story gained national traction as the ACLU and other supporters pushed back against the school’s action.
Christiansen, a junior and aspiring attorney, told the Gazette Journal his choice of words did not merit a suspension.
“I’m smart enough to use better words than the f-word,” Christiansen said. “At the same time, even if I do want to use those words, it’s my right to do so.”
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties of Nevada agreed the suspension represented a violation of free speech, according to the report. They threatened to sue the school if the suspension was not overturned.
Several days later, the district complied with the request and removed the incident from the Christiansen’s school record.
How did the school district respond?
The school district issued a statement that said while it respects free speech, educators also try to teach how to respectfully interact with others.
“The Washoe County School District respects the First Amendment rights of students and encourages students to exercise those First Amendment rights and to engage in the political process,” Traci Davis, the district’s superintendent, told the Gazette Journal. “However, as educators we also serve a critical educational purpose to prepare our students for citizenship in our democratic system, which includes educating our youth on manners of civility, proper decorum when expressing opinions, and to treat all persons with respect.”
“I support our teachers and administrators who work tirelessly to instill these essential values in our students,” she added.
ACLU Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose also issued a statement to the news outlet that called the district’s concession a major victory for the First Amendment.
“This is a major win for the First Amendment. Noah will move forward with a clean disciplinary record. Students, like everyone else, have a right to criticize government officials. Now students will know they have a right to speak passionately about their political beliefs, free from retaliation,” Rose explained.
Christensen’s suspension started on March 20 and he returned to school two days later, according to published reports.
Students across the national have participated in various gun protests since 17 people died in a mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.