Victory for Conservative Students at Edina High School

The Edina High School Young Conservatives Club can now be reinstated as a school-sponsored club or a non-sponsored club, and can exercise free speech without fear of consequences or retribution.

Edina High School
Credit: Ben Franske/Wikimedia Commons

EDINA, Minn. – The Edina High School Young Conservatives Club (YCC) announced a settlement last week with the Edina High School administration in a lawsuit against the school district.

Last year, student members of the YCC filed a lawsuit against Edina High School and its principal, along with the Edina School District and its superintendent after the school shut down the conservative club for discriminatory reasons. The lawsuit charged the school with violating students’ rights of freedom of speech and of association, equal access, and not abiding by federal laws and codes for the U.S. flag.

The lawsuit was filed in December following an incident during Edina High School’s Veterans Day assembly where several students refused to stand for the national anthem, some reportedly choosing to lay on the floor in protest. The students then remained seated for the playing of “Taps.”

Some students were uncomfortable with the protest, including a member of the YCC who posted a video of the anthem protest. The video sparked a social media firestorm.

In response to the criticism surrounding the protest, a Youtube user called “Antifa EHS” posted a video targeting YCC members. The video features an anonymous individual wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, threatening members of the club for “pursuing your alt-right agenda.” Tensions escalated over Veteran’s Day weekend, and the administration then dissolved the YCC.

Erick Kaardal, an attorney representing student members of YCC, called the situation a “clear case of discrimination against students with conservative beliefs.”

“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,” Kaardal said in a press release preceding the announcement of the lawsuit.

Now the YCC is celebrating victory against the school district, announcing a settlement.

“On behalf of the current and future members of the Edina High School Young Conservatives Club, student plaintiffs and parents, and families in the Edina School District, this lawsuit is now settled and we have won everything that we set out for,” the YCC wrote in a press release.

As a result of the settlement, the YCC can now be reinstated as a school-sponsored club or a non-sponsored club, and can exercise free speech without fear of consequences or retribution. Also, U.S. flags are now required to hang in every classroom, and USA Day will be included once again in the school’s Spirit Week.

Kaardal says the settlement establishes a “statewide foundation for conservative student clubs who criticize school policies.”

“This settlement agreement establishes a statewide foundation for conservative student clubs who criticize school policies to operate at Minnesota schools,” Kaardal said in a press release. “Edina school staff disbanded the Young Conservatives Club because it ‘disrespected’ flag protesters at a November 2017 Veterans Day Event. Experienced school administrators acknowledged in response to this case that school administrators had not confronted this issue before: conservative students organizing to criticize a public school’s ideology. Is Edina Public Schools’ ideology above First Amendment criticism? Of course not.”

“After the lawsuit was filed, the school board agreed—and admirably so. The result of the settlement for the students is First Amendment freedom—something they did not have before the settlement,” Kaardal added.

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