Shawnee Mission administration sends apology letters to student plaintiffs in 1st Amendment case

Student protestors at SM North the afternoon of National School Walkout day in April 2018.

As part of compliance with the settlement agreement approved by a federal judge in April, the Shawnee Mission School District has issued letters of apology to students who sued the district last year for violating their 1st Amendment rights during the National School Walkout protests in spring 2018.

Plaintiffs received letters by certified mail in recent weeks with a letter signed by Superintendent Michael Fulton. The copy of the apology is as follows:

On behalf of the Shawnee Mission School District, I want to express my sincere and heartfelt apology to you for the incidents that took place around the April 18, 2018, National School Walkout. As educators, it is our responsibility to help students find their voice, and our actions last spring, as detailed in the settlement agreement, fell short of that expectation. We are committed to working with students to support their first amendment rights to free expression and will support that commitment through Board of Education policy and staff training.

Each letter was accompanied by a $1 bill — the nominal damages requested by the plaintiffs as part of the agreement.

In addition to the apology, the district has committed to:

  • having administrators trained on students’ 1st Amendment rights, and
  • adopting new policy language clarifying students’ rights to express their views in non-school sponsored events and to protect student journalists

Shawnee Mission Chief Communication Officer David Smith said in late May that the district has not established a specific timeline for complying with the other parts of the settlement, but that “the district is working in good faith to fulfill its obligations under the settlement agreement, including communicating with plaintiffs, developing policy language, and providing training for administrators.”