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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Dr. Timothy Leary

The only people who have freedom of speech are parrots.

Thomas

Who's this putz in the picture?

Anonymous

Rep. Mark Amodei

Anonymous

What kind of closet clown hat brd snitches on a kid for calling him out on his flagrant partisan politization You can tell that smug azzhat Amodei lusts after Hannity’by that creepy Rick Sanctomonious torum Sweater He is wearing. He has a sheet storm heading his way and he is so entitled and arrogant he doesn’t believe people know that he is nothing but another (R)Tea Neo-confederate rigid wing-nut shill pushing his rigid propaganda and and acting out his anger that students had the gall to actively stand up and talk truth to power and they are not backing down. Nor are the millions of Americans who stand with them . As he lacquers down his hair with hairspray and heads out to toss one-off over some Mexican food and guzzle some 40’s of Cult45 with Hannity and that cretin Alex Jones who does need to have one of the parents to throw a beatin on him for his continued dickery and full out attempt to break these youngster spirit

Dennis Studer

I am a former teacher. (35+years) It would be interesting what the grounds for suspension where since no where in the article did it have any relationship to a school activity. I am sorry sorry the congressman's feeling were hurt and did not like being to to in that manner. Maybe if the congressman had worked to solve the problem things would have been different. There is an old saying that sometime the truth hurts.

10kats

Indeed.

Anonymous

This is a symptom of a far more serious disease. Americans voters have embraced a foreign style "athoritarianism" model of government instead of an American style "constitutional rule of law" model of government.

Authoritarian officials are similar to the "Boss Hog" character in the old television series "The Dukes of Hazard" - essentially making up the law as they go along or breaking any law they please. Authoritarian minded officials don't operate within the law and U.S. Constitution - they are lawless little chieftains - the law is what they say it is.

In an American style "constitutional rule of law" system, government officials and contractors are "restrained" by the U.S. Constitution. A public school [a government entity] can't infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights. For interested federal prosecutors: violating any constitutional right is also part of the federal Title 18 Criminal Code (ex: Title 18 US Code 245 and Title 42 Pattern & Practice statutes).

Ironically, for some reason, these same supporters of foreign authoritarianism systems are also opposed to funding better Civics Education for students - education that denounces authoritarianism models of government. This kid should be a judge or mayor!

Gene

Yes, by all means, let’s defend and even celebrate deviancy in the name of a right until the very concept of “rights” lose their meaning.

Anonymous

Oh, you mean "deviants" should have rights, and if they are permitted, it makes your rights meaningless? Do you have any idea how dishonest that sounds. If you mean to say that you should determine what speakers are "deviant", and you get to restrict rights based upon your biases, then say that. Be honest.

Anonymous

Oh, you mean "deviants" should NOT have rights, and if they are permitted, it makes your rights meaningless? Do you have any idea how dishonest that sounds. If you mean to say that you should determine what speakers are "deviant", and you get to restrict rights based upon your biases, then say that. Be honest.

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