On March 14th, students across America staged a nationwide walkout to protest gun violence in the wake of the recent shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Estimates are that tens of thousands of students took part in the demonstrations. However, as with any kind of mass demonstration, things didn't go smoothly in every location.
A student at New Prague High School in Minnesota was carrying a sign emblazoned with the famous NRA talking point, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Of course, guns make it way easier for people to kill people, though that's beside this particular point. What happened next is that the student was forced to leave by principal, Lonnie Seifert, who personally escorted him off the school's campus.
The whole moment was caught on tape by another student named Kenny MacDonald...
Kids at our school today walked out, in honor of the 17 students killed in Florida. Students held signs that said, “Arm our teachers” they had two signs. A student walked out without saying a word peacefully put up his sign which said “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” he was escorted off the property by our principal and threatened to be put into a police car. This violates the first amendment and makes me sick that they can do whatever they want. Please make this go viral. Location: New Prague High school, Minnesota.Posted by Kenny MacDonald on Wednesday, March 14, 2018
A statement from the school explained that no disciplinary action was being taken against the student. MacDonald pointed out that other students had anti-gun-control signage in the crowd.
But, according to The Hill, the reason why this student was singled out was because...
"Students needed to submit signs for review to school administrators at least 24 hours in advance, the district said.
The student did not submit his sign and therefore was moved to non-school grounds in compliance with the policy 'to protect the exercise of students' and employees' free speech rights, [while] taking into consideration the educational objectives and responsibilities of the School District,' according to the statement.
The school district said it 'fully respects and recognizes that students have free speech rights.'"
This led to a fierce debate about the first amendment right to free speech...
So the 1st amendment only applies to people who think the 2nd amendment should be abolished. And we wonder why young people have no grasp of history or civics.— Susie D (@SusieD57) March 15, 2018
If you had a grasp on the history of student protest law, you’d know about Morse v Frederick, principle is well within his constitutional rights to do so. Us young people have the burden to going through loopholes to be heard, you’ve had your turn.— loni (@AllondraG) March 15, 2018
I believe Morse v Frederick was a case about a student who used his 1st Ammendment to promote illegal drug use. BIG DIFFERENCE. This kid did nothing to promote anything illegal. Not a good comparison by any means.— 🇺🇸🇺🇸GY6🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@G_Y_6) March 15, 2018
The bigger point of the case was that it established that the principal was well within is rights to suppress unpopular political views because students don’t have full 1st amendment rights at school— loni (@AllondraG) March 15, 2018
For those who don't know, the Morse v. Frederick case was a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court Case in which the court ruled 5-4 that a school principal has a right to suppress free speech at a school supervised event if it is promoting drug use. Justice Roberts went on to explain that student expression may be suppressed if it 'materially and substantially disrupts the work and discipline of the school.' However, he is careful to say that this doesn't apply to peaceful demonstrations or the desire of a school to avoid discomfort from an unpopular viewpoint. So it seems, since the student was not causing a disturbance, Morse v. Frederick does not apply in this case.
Many felt that the principal should be punished...
Teacher should be fired for talking that boys free speech away.— Michael Hart Sr. (@Michael122448) March 15, 2018
Principal needs to be removed! And a apology? Sorry to late! That child and any other that felt the same? Had same rights! To be there,express their view as well! It’s called equality! Left libs suppressing? Is crap— Tina (@twillnurse) March 15, 2018
There were those who had kind words for the student...
That's their agenda, I am proud of that kid,He will make a good Marine one day,— USMC, Always (@rex_caseman) March 15, 2018
Good for him! He has a mind of his own and exercised his free speech rights!!— lindajj56 (@lindajj56) March 15, 2018
THAT was one brave kid, alone amid a herd of mindless sheep.— Breezy Best (@BreezysBest) March 15, 2018
And of course, like any good right-wing rage manufacturing story, there was a healthy dose of conspiracy theory...
You Can Smell The Entire School Walk Out Has George Soros Stink and Obama Foundation Stains All Over It ,, Every Speech Scripted ,, Every Sign Meant To Look Different But Same Repetitive Blah Blah ,, #FutureDemocrats #PuppetVoters NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT #FoolishMinions pic.twitter.com/AkrBo0OCdu— FOLLOW (@US_Officials) March 15, 2018
Liberals are anti American.— rick griffin 🇺🇸🙏💪 (@rickgri53071981) March 15, 2018
Schumer, peloser and other democrats hate the United States.
The students are used by the demoncrats in our congress and senate. Wake up students protest schumer and peloser. They make millions from planned parenthood abortion clinics.
Schools were infiltrated long ago. Brainwashing... teach your kids at home!— Tom (@TomZBHappy) March 15, 2018
. These school staff see the children as property of the state. Using them as willing hostages.— 🍓🌸cYnThIa4TRUMP🌷 (@seecyn5858) March 15, 2018
The Borg moves around from issue to issue: BLM, Women’s March, gun confiscation, racism, etc, but it’s still the Borg... there is no room for dissent. Room for one point of view only...smothered by groupthink. #NationalWalkoutDay where #2A is shot down, and #1A silenced.— rider writer®♦️ (@HBwriterMike) March 15, 2018
Like I said they take away the 2nd amendment what do this stupid people think will follow? Here's a clue. It comes before the 2nd amendment. Remember Hitler said to (Conquer a Nation first disarm it's citizens) were the fascist & socialist.— J.Farmers [Supreme Ruler of Xenu] (@19Calaban70) March 15, 2018
Free speech is a fact of life in our country, as the above tweets make quite clear. Unfortunately, disdain for certain political bubbles doesn't give you a right to take away their right to say what they think. As much as I stand with the vast majority of students protesting for gun control, it was also not up to the principal to curtail this student's freedom of speech. That is a slippery slope.