ACLU of Illinois Defends Pro-Gun Students at Rockford, Illinois High School

Illinois — Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Illinois Rebecca K. Glenberg sent a letter to Hononegah High School Superintendent Dr. Lynn Gibson urging the school to take “prompt action” regarding what she says, is apparent discrimination at Hononegah.

In a letter dated April 19, Attorney Glenberg says that the ACLU of Illinois was “dismayed to learn of apparent discrimination at Hononegah High School during a March 14, 2018 walkout against students who hold pro-gun views.”

The letter states, “We urge you to take prompt action to ensure that similar discrimination does not occur in the future…”.

On the March 14 walkout that occurred nationwide, at 10:00 a.m., approximately fifty to seventy-five students filed out of Hononegah High School. Madison Oster and about five other pro-gun students were made to wait until all of their classmates had exited.

The letter says while the other students gathered about halfway down the football field, facing the end-zone bleachers, Assistant Principal Chad Dougherty would not allow the pro-gun students onto the field, requiring them to stand with their signs near the door, behind the fence.

Attorney Glenberg goes on to say in her letter that when Madison asked Mr. Dougherty why her group was not allowed on the field, he suggested that they would “make trouble” and that he did not want a ‘riot.’ When she persisted, he eventually relented, ushering them through the gate with a sarcastic bow.

Still, the small group was required to remain just inside the fence, out of sight or hearing of their peers down the field or other observers.

The letter says that Madison continued to ask why her group could not join the others. Eventually, Mr. Flohr approached and told the students, “You are the only ones who feel that way,” in apparent reference to their pro-gun views. He then turned his back on them and refused any further discussion.

“At the end of the walkout, Mr. Daugherty subjected Madison’s group to the taunts of their classmates by holding them aside while all of the other students walked past them into the building. One student yelled at Madison to kill herself. Another student took pictures of Madison’s group, one of which became an online meme, Madison’s friends later reported. Finally, before allowing them to return to class, Mr. Dougherty warned the small pro-gun group not to bully the students with different views.

Madison returned home early, feeling bullied and disrespected, and firmly convinced that her school does not value her or other students who share her beliefs. The other students in her group feel too intimidated to express their views again during the April 20 walkout.”

“Based on my conversations with Madison Oster and her father”, Attorney Glenberg writes, “the school did not afford equal treatment to Madison and other students who wanted to express a pro-gun viewpoint during the March 14 walkout. Instead, school officials isolated them from other student demonstrators and were dismissive of their requests for equal treatment.”

Glenberg says in this instance, there was no apparent reason to believe that substantial disruption would occur if pro-gun students were given an equal opportunity for expression during the walkout.

She adds, “In the longer term, please ensure that school policies and practices permit student speech without regard to viewpoint, as the Constitution requires.”

You can read the full letter to Hononegah High School here.


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