A group of parents and residents filed a federal lawsuit against the Lakeville Area School District over posters distributed in Lakeville schools bearing the message Black Lives Matter, saying the messages forced at least one white student to leave.

Plaintiffs Kalynn Aaker, Bob and Cynthia Cajune, and several others who chose to remain anonymous, say the district rejected their request that it give equal space to the messages All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, calling it a violation of their free speech rights and civil rights.

Aaker was a plaintiff in a similar lawsuit filed last year and eventually dismissed by U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery for lack of standing after Montgomery noted that Aaker's daughter no longer attended Lakeville schools. Four of Aaker's children are named as plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit, all of whom attend Lakeville schools.

A Lakeville Area Schools spokesperson said Tuesday that the district believes there is no legal basis for the latest lawsuit, and that the district is confident in its defense.

"At Lakeville Area Schools we strive to ensure the success of each and every student in our school community," said district spokesperson Stephanie Kass in a statement. "We believe that each and every student has a state constitutional right to a public education that is equal, equitable, and free of racism and harassment. We welcome all students and all perspectives. We are committed to creating inclusive and affirming school communities where every student experiences a strong sense of belonging and feels valued."

The school district in April of last year bought a series of posters including two with the slogan Black Lives Matter and made them available to teachers and staff. The district stated that the inclusive posters were requested by staff and families and were supported by the Lakeville school board.

The suit states that plaintiff Bob Cajune, a taxpayer in the school district, was turned down when he "asked that alternative ideological viewpoints be presented alongside the Black Lives Matter posters, such as 'All Lives Matter' or 'Blue Lives Matter.' "

The district's response said those messages were not allowed in the school and that "the All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter mottos were created specifically in opposition to Black Lives Matter" and that those messages "effectively discount the struggle the Black students have faced in our school buildings and that Black individuals face in our society as a whole," according to the suit.

Aaker and the other plaintiffs say the phrase Black Lives Matter is intertwined with a political movement, that the connection is understood by children, and that the district's actions created a hostile environment forcing a specific child to leave the district. The child, identified as N.W., told the school board at its Oct. 12, 2021, meeting that "school is no longer about education; school is about control and pushing agendas. ... I hope to come back to middle school but I will not come back to be tormented and lied to over and over."

When the Lakeville school district collaborated on an event last fall meant to highlight community diversity, plaintiff Cynthia Cajune says she was turned down when she sought to include other ethnic backgrounds including Japanese and European cultures.

The suit goes on to allege that Black Lives Matter activists have blocked the plaintiffs from entering school board meetings and have created a culture of fear and intimidation that required several plaintiffs to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

The suit also pointed to the district's decision in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, to block teachers' requests to hang Black Lives Matter posters. Former superintendent Michael Baumann explained at the time that the phrase Black Lives Matter has a political dimension and that district policy prohibited posters bearing that message, according to the suit. Several months later, the district paid for the printing of the eight inclusivity posters.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Douglas P. Seaton and James V. F. Dickey of the Upper Midwest Law Center.