VERO BEACH, Fla. – Administrators at Vero Beach High School recently stripped senior class president JP Krause of his leadership role over a video of Krause’s satirical campaign speech during class.
With his advanced placement U.S. History teacher’s permission, Krause gave a joking 90-second speech that played off President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and poked fun at his opponent as a classmate recorded, WCPO reports.
“They started going ‘speech, speech!’, kinda jokingly,” JP said, according to ABC 15. “My teacher was like ‘go right ahead.’”
“It was completely out of left field for me,” JP said.
The student made goofy proclamations about his opponent and proposed a wall between nearby high school “like Trump did during his campaign,” he said.
“She will expand the government so you will not be able to do anything,” JP said of his opponent in the video. “She will raise taxes 80 percent.
“She will likely create a dress code,” he told his classmates as they roared with laughter.
“She represents Sebastian River High School,” JP continued. “What I propose is that we build a wall between here and Sebastian River, and we make Sebastian River pay for it.”
JP’s classmates elected him senior class president the next day, but school officials disqualified him because of his remarks and sentenced him to detention, WCPO reports.
JP said he received a letter from the principal that stated the speech “created a situation of public humiliation.”
“They talked about how I was harassing the opponent while I was talking about her in my speech,” JP said.
His mother, Angela Krause, is concerned the punishment could impact his college prospects.
“I don’t think there was anything wrong,” she said. “He was being silly. He’s 17!”
The controversy prompted the Pacific Legal Foundation to intervene on JP’s behalf and send a letter to school officials to educate them about the student’s first amendment rights.
“J.P.’s speech did no more than involve light-hearted humor by associating his opponent in satirical manner with current political and cultural events. His speech directly referenced national political campaign topics, such as Communism, raising taxes, and President Trump’s stated intention to build a wall on our country’s southern border,” PLF attorney Mark Miller wrote in a letter to School District of Indian River County Superintendent Mark Rendell on June 6.
“Nobody could have taken his comments seriously; that is, no reasonable person believes his fellow candidate for the Presidency is a Communist, wants to raise the students’ taxes, or favors Sebastian River High School rather than her own high school,” the letter continued. “Yet VBHS Principal Shawn O’Keefe claims in an email to J.P.’s mother that J.P.’s speech violated the harassment policy because he ‘publicly humiliated’ his opponent. Accepting that preposterous claim for the sake of argument, the Supreme Court has held time and again, both within and outside of the school context, that the mere fact that someone might take offense at the content of speech is not sufficient justification for prohibiting it.”
Miller argued that the district’s speech code is “overly broad and unconstitutional” and that “high school students, particularly those campaigning in a school election, cannot be punished for innocuous humor and political satire of the sort J.P. engaged in.
“The Constitution forbids it,” he wrote. “I hope this letter is well-taken at the School District and causes the District to reverse its position, reinstate J.P. Krause as Class President, and remove any reference to a finding of harassment against J.P.”