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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Ben

Actually, just the opposite. A private school has more latitude than a public school.

Anonymous

Thanks ACLU. If this filthy mouthed teen should be punished for following in the footsteps of our Nations Leader (foul mouthed POTUS), what punishment is to be dished out to the leader for setting the example? Public Schools are completely out of line on many issues like this. Worry about teaching and providing security

Anonymous

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the teen's wording, it is his rights being violated, not with standing it is horrible for a student to be suspended. The ACLU doesn't judge people; they have even come to Rush Limbaugh's defense.

Mary Jo Morelli

Well, I am an adult and can't be suspended from school or any place else for that matter so...Mr. Amodei shove your chicken shit little crybaby attitude up your ass. This young man has every right to speak his mind. You idiots don't listen when people try to explain their concerns so congressmen such as yourself push people to be angry, swear, yell, etc. because they have no other way to get your attention. Noah and his parents should sue you and the school district. Good thing you didn't do this to my kid. I am not afraid or intimidated by you candyass cowards hiding behind your lying version of the Constitution and I don't give up. I hope Noah can do the same and defend himself. Your bullying is disgusting, go cry to your mommy.

Ben

It is truly scary to imagine what our country would be like with an ACLU!

Anonymous

Congressman Snowflake’s staff had no standing in associating Noah’s action with his school. Noah’s school over reached. And Noah was right to complain - by his inaction, his elected representative is in violation of his presumed contract to protect and advance the causes of the people of his district. I think protecting students, even the noisy ones, from being shot in a public school falls in that category.

Anonymous

Thank you ACLU, and keep up the good work, Noah!! It takes courage to speak out for what we believe in. Those who sit back and do or say nothing are as guilty of wrongdoing as those who perpetrate it.

Anonymous

How is this any different than if I was at work and stepped outside for a break and cursed out my supervisor?

Gary

Why curse? Be respectful. Thats all.

Anonymous

I know this kid... And his mother.... He's been a horrible kid for years. Don't let this article fool you... If he wants to be taken seriously, don't used profanity. He's been in trouble before, and it's cause he's a bully and his mom lets All 3 of her boys act like little brats!

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