An Illinois school district faces a civil rights lawsuit after officials and administrators allegedly discriminated against students who supported gun rights during a school walkout for gun control.
Hononegah Community High School junior Madison Oster and her father Jeremy Oster filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against her school district, superintendent Michael J. Dugan, associate principal Chad Dougherty and principal Eric Flohr over how they handled a student walkout on March 14, the Rockford Register Star reports.
As part of a national protest tied to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, several dozen Hononegh students left class and gathered on the school’s football field for a “die-in” to call for “banning certain firearms, and the prohibition of certain law-abiding persons from possessing firearms, as a way to achieve school safety,” according to the lawsuit.
Madison Oster disagreed with the politics, and arranged ahead of time to share a different perspective through a counter-protest with several classmates. They gained approval to carry signs that read “Pro life, pro God, pro gun” and “Protect us, police for all schools,” but the Oster’s allege school officials did not treat students on both side of the debate with the same respect.
“ … (O)n the day of the rally, the younger Oster and five supporters were kept about 95 yards away from the estimated 100 to 150 anti-gun students engaged in the sanctioned walk-out,” Guns.com reports. “When the youth protested, they were called ‘troublemakers,’ by a school official who later made the Second Amendment advocates stand by while the larger group was walking past them, twice, refusing to halt the larger group’s claimed taunting of Oster and those who shared her opinions.”
The lawsuit alleges, “One student yelled at Madison to kill herself. Another student took pictures of Madison’s group, one of which reportedly became an online meme and method of ridicule among the other HCHS students.”
The Register Star reports:
In April, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois sent a letter to school officials accusing them of discriminating against students expressing views supportive of gun rights. The ACLU said the school discriminated against the students by isolating them, by acting dismissively toward their requests for equal treatment, and by subjecting them to bullying from fellow students.
The lawsuit, supported by the Second Amendment Foundation, contends Oster believes “the best way to protect schoolchildren while on school premises is to ‘harden’ the schools, with measures such as metal detectors, armed security guards and other staff, and other measures that do not involve banning firearms or disarming law-abiding persons.”
The Osters want a court injunction to specifically prohibit school officials from “selectively banning her viewpoint about gun rights and school safety.”
The family is also seeking monetary damages for the district’s alleged violations of the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
“Social prejudice is wrong, no matter who is practicing or enabling it,” SAF founder Alan Gottlieb said in a statement. “It is unconscionable for school officials to allow this sort of thing, much less enable it. That’s why we’re supporting Madison and her father. Students with different viewpoints retain their free speech rights. When school officials allow those students to be harassed and bullied, something must be done.”
District officials declined the Register Star’s request for comment about the lawsuit.