By Grace Carr
Attorneys for Minnesota’s Young Conservatives Club (YCC) filed a lawsuit Thursday against a high school, saying the school violated students’ rights to free expression by requiring students to respect peers who chose to dishonor the American flag.
The students filed the lawsuit against Edina High School, the principal and the school district. The lawsuit — “Edina High School Young Conservative Club et al v. Edina School District et al” — charges the school with violating students’ rights to freedom of speech, association and equal access. The suit alleges the school is trying to put a flag code above the First Amendment.
“The U.S. Flag Code preempts Edina High School’s requirement that students respect flag protesters—whatever that means,” YCC lawyer Erick Kaardal said in a press release. “This is a clear case of discrimination against students with conservative beliefs by a school whose policies have been documented as promoting an extreme ideological agenda.”
“Edina High School has essentially declared itself to be ‘big brother’ – to ensure that students ‘think correctly’ about the U.S. flag, political and social issues,” Kaardal added.
The lawsuit arises after a myriad of students refused to stand for the national anthem and “Taps” to honor fallen soldiers on Veterans Day. After YCC posted a video of the students disrespecting the flag onto social media with critical comments, the club received a slew of threats labeling the group’s members as racists and bigots.
YCC members describes themselves on Facebook as “a group of teenagers that discuss their political views with each other.”
A masked student also threatened members of the club for their “alt-right agenda,” in a creepy Nov. 12 video, according to Edina Schools Superintendent John Schultz.
“This is why we at EHS Anti-fascists have decided your club cannot continue to exist in its current form,” the masked student said on camera. “We will not stop until every tentacle of your evil monstrosity is sliced off at the nerve.”
Several club members left campus out of fear for their safety after the threatening video was published. The school administration shut the club down, however, because the group “criticized the school’s policies supporting the organized student protest.”
“The bottom line with this particular instance is that students are not required to stand for the national anthem, or ‘Taps’ or the pledge,” Edina High School Principal Andy Beaton said in a statement. The school steps in when statements become disrespectful, Beaton added.
“School policy allows students to disrespect military veterans and the United States flag, but will not tolerate those students who criticize the disrespectful behavior of the student protesters,” YCC’s attorney Kaardal said. “That’s a double standard.”
Neither YCC nor Edina High School responded to the DCNF’s request for comment in time for publication.