Tensions between Edina High School’s Young Conservatives Club and the school district flared Monday, even though a lawsuit the group filed against the district was settled earlier this month.
Surrounded by American flags, the student group held a news conference to say that an American flag is now hanging in every classroom at the high school thanks to its victory in the group’s federal lawsuit against the district.
However, in a statement earlier in March, the district said that allegations that it had refused to hang American flags in the classrooms were untrue. The district said flags were not rehung in all classrooms before the start of the year because of renovations but that all classrooms had flags as of March 1.
Erick Kaardal, an attorney representing several club members, said the group has been reinstated as a school-sponsored club with the ability to “exercise free speech without consequence” under the settlement.
“The purpose of the lawsuit was to get the club reinstated,” Kaardal said at the news conference, which started with the Pledge of Allegiance.
In December, Kaardal, who represented students Nick Spades, Elizabeth Ebner, Jazmine Edmond, Tatum Buyse and Ana Doval, alleged that school leaders revoked the Young Conservatives Club’s status as a school-sponsored organization — a claim the district has denied.
The group had filed a lawsuit claiming the district violated its First Amendment rights and wrongfully terminated their group after it criticized students who refused to stand during a playing of taps and the national anthem in a Veterans Day assembly.
The protesters’ action outraged members of the club, a student group not sponsored by the high school at the time. Club members took to Twitter to express their objections, according to the suit.
The lawsuit charged that the district “disbanded” the conservative group and argued that the school refused to sponsor its club. School officials denied those claims, according to a district statement. The district said the students had originally not applied for club status for the 2017-18 school year, but after the lawsuit was filed, the students did apply and the club was approved.
Under the settlement, the district will tweak its policy to restate and declare its support of student rights. The district also will slightly revise its high school club guidelines to state that the district cannot revoke a club’s sponsorship based on expressions of free speech unless the expression violates the district’s mission.
The district said it “did not pay any monetary damages or fees to the Plaintiffs and did not admit to any wrongdoing.” It said it moved quickly to settle the lawsuit to avoid what could have been a costly legal battle. Officials said their general liability insurance covered the initial costs to fight the case, declining to specify the total costs.
Parent and plaintiff David Buyse contended that the student group won. “We demanded that our Young Conservative Club be reinstated,” he said. “The Young Conservative Club is now reinstated and bigger and better than before.”