Cursing at Your Congressman Off of School Grounds Shouldn’t Get You Suspended

On March 14, students across the country joined a walkout to demand stricter gun laws following the Parkland shooting that claimed 17 lives. Among the protesters was Noah C., a high school junior in Reno, Nevada, who called the office of U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei with a passionate message.

“Members of Congress who haven’t acted on gun control reforms,” Noah C. told a staffer in the congressman’s office, “need to get off their fucking asses and do something to keep us safe.”

Noah was one of many students at the walkout who exercised their First Amendment right to use strong language in messages to their local representatives. But instead of seriously addressing the valid concerns of a young constituent, Amodei’s office decided to escalate the situation by reporting the call to Robert McQueen High School, where Noah is a junior. Within hours, Noah — who had never faced a detention or any academic issues — found himself suspended.

The move sets a dangerous precedent, considering Noah’s impassioned plea for gun control legislation did not occur during school or at a school-sanctioned or -sponsored event. That’s why the ACLU of Nevada is stepping in to defend him. Noah’s suspension is an unconstitutional attack on his First Amendment rights, which could have a chilling effect on others who might want to contact their representative. We urge the school to reverse its suspension and Amodei to withdraw his complaint.

Unfortunately, McQueen High School has a history of trying to tamp down on Noah’s speech.

At a McQueen debate tournament earlier this year, Noah went off-script to give his thoughts on how President Donald Trump’s policy positions and rhetoric is harmful to the community. Afterward, Noah felt compelled to write a letter of apology to his student opponent, who lodged an unfounded bullying complaint against him.

McQueen administrators have pointed to that incident as an example of prior bad behavior, even though he was never disciplined for it. The school said that Noah’s political speech as the debate tournament should have been a learning experience to keep his emotions under control.

Noah was similarly outspoken during the fall of 2017 when he noticed McQueen implementing its dress code in a discriminatory manner. The high school was punishing female students, but not their male peers, for baring their shoulders.

Noah protested the school’s discriminatory enforcement by starting the hashtag campaign, “#FreeTheShoulder.” Noah then wore a shirt to school that read “Free the Shoulder,” and the administration threatened him with disciplinary action unless he removed it.

Despite McQueen’s uncharitable characterization of him, Noah is an exemplary student and leader. He’s been a member of the Chinese Club, the Spanish Club, the Debate Club, Academic Olympics, and Academic World Quest, where his team was the Nevada state champion and placed 10th in the national finals. Noah’s mock trial team advanced to state championships both years he was on the team.

But his academic and extra-curricular achievements aren’t what matters. What matters is that Noah, like the rest of us, have rights under the First Amendment. You’d think public school administrators and a U.S. congressman would remember that, but we have no problem reminding them of that fact.

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Sean L.

Just because someone holds an opinion you disagree with, or just because someone expresses an opinion via the use of profanity, does not make them a "deviant". To suggest otherwise is to betray the very principle of Freedom of Speech, and flies in the face of everything the Founding Fathers fought for.

Larry

I do support deviants. I am a deviant. I am using your implied definition of 'deviant' as anyone that you disagree with.
This country was founded by deviants and they built the system to protect deviants.
The administrators should know what the limits of their authority and responsibility are; apparently they do not.
Where this will end up is that they will get slapped down by a judge. They will either learn a lesson, at taxpayer expense, or they will do this again and get smacked harder because then they will have NO excuse for not knowing. Hopefully somebody will explain to them that the second time the taxpayers have every reason to not pay the legal bill for them.

Final point: we only have the Rights that we are willing to defend.
The tree of liberty occasionally requires fertilizing with the blood of tyrants and Patriots. (That is Not a threat, I am just stressing a point.)

Anonymous

Deviancy is the basis of America, the very essence of what rights and freedoms are.

Anonymous

stop snitchin

Anonymous

There has been a very alarmng trend lately of schools punishing children for actions that happen outside of school hours, off school ground, and without any affiliation with the school whatsoever -- in short, when the child is in the care of his/her parent.

Anonymous

I remain proud of my ACLU membership. Thank you for defending free speech.

Johnny Throbo

The school probably suspended this little monster so they can have some peace and quite for a nice week or so.

What an attention seeker.
- He's calls up his Congressmen and curses at their assistance.
- At a school debate he bullies an opponent. He denies this even though he wrote that person an apology letter.

Amy are you related to Noah? "Noah is an exemplary student and leader" and call the cursing "a passionate message".

Sagacious Joy

It is obvious that you were NOT an exemplary student nor leader and are unable to recognize a passionate message when you see one. Obviously, you don't know the difference between an "attention seeker" (like the current occupant of the office of the president) and a student leader who is engaged with his school and his fellow students enough to fight for their rights. You are clearly unable to understand the simple "politics" of writing a letter of apology for something YOU DID NOT DO in order to avoid worse trouble from a school administration stupid enough to believe that a debate between high school students is equal to "bullying." It is also clear that YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA that the school had absolutely ZERO grounds for expelling Noah C. In short, you don't know what you're talking about and need to shut the fuck up. #STFU

Irving R. McPringle

I respectfully suggest the school administrator who suspended Noah be given a few days of suspension without pay so he has some free time to read up on free speech issues.

Anonymous

These no-good Republicans must go... I woukd not be surprised if those Republicans have had these young people investigated by HLS, the FBI, and others as TERRORIST because they are Peaceful Protesters in America..

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