Student Suspended After Call to Amodei’s Office
Came during the nationwide student walkout over gun violence last week
A student from Reno is saying his civil liberties were violated after he was suspended from his high school after calling Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei.
Noah Christiansen called his congressman’s office last week while students across the country walked out of classes in support of gun control, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
In response, Amodei’s office called McQueen High School, where Christiansen is a junior, to report “offensive, disrespectful and vulgar comments,” which led to his suspension.
“It was quite sad to recognize that people think that students’ opinion don’t matter and they feel the need to retaliate against them,” Christiansen told the newspaper.
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Amodei’s office criticizing attempts to restrict Christiansen’s First Amendment rights.
“As a member of Congress, you have sworn to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, and you should know that people have the right to criticize government officials, even if they use colorful language,” the letter said.
Christiansen said he’s hoping for an apology from the congressman, but Amodei said he shouldn’t expect one.
“I’m not apologizing because my guy accurately described what happened in the phone call,” Amodei told the Nevada Independent.
Amodei said one of his constituent services representatives who took Christiansen’s call called the school and happened to reach the principal by chance.
“He related the guy was vulgar. He didn’t ask [the school] for any specific thing or beat the kid up. He just said ‘I wanted you know that this guy was really vulgar. We had a lot of calls and nobody else was,’ and that was it,” Amoedi said.
Christiansen admitted “I could have used some better language, but it’s still my right to say that language. You have the right to say anything to a representative, as long as it’s not threatening.”
Christiansen also took issue with the fact that his suspension was initially for Thursday and Friday, but the school moved one of the suspension days to Monday to allow him to compete in a debate championship.
“It looks fantastic for the school,” he said. But right after I do something good for the school, I’m still suspended.”
The Washoe County School District released a statement saying it could not address specific discipline of individual students due to federal privacy laws.
“The Washoe County School District honors, respects and adheres to the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. It is within this context that thousands of our students respectfully and appropriately used their First Amendment rights by participating in walk out actions on several of our campuses on March 14th as well as participated in dozens of other school-sanctioned activities related to this national movement,” the statement said.
But the district said some students were disciplined “for breaking conduct codes or participating in other inappropriate behavior.”