Edina Young Conservatives Club Sues Edina Public Schools for Violations of First Amendment Rights, U.S. Flag Code


Zoe Cheung

Attorney Erick Kaardal represented the Young Conservatives Club at a press conference on Dec. 7.

Jenna Simon, online editor-in-chief

On Dec. 7, an attorney representing the Edina Young Conservatives Club announced they had filed a lawsuit against Edina Public Schools. The charges allege a violation of students’ rights relating to freedom of speech and association, along with violations of the U.S. Flag Code.

At 4:00 PM on the same day, students and their legal representatives held a press conference outside of Creek Valley Elementary School in Edina to explain why they are suing the district. YCC President Nick Spades, Vice President Lizzie Ebner, and club member Jazmine Edmond spoke at the conference along with Attorney Erick Kaardal and Edina parent & alum David Buyse.

“These students are proud of their conservative values. They have a passion for their beliefs, and yet they feel threatened to voice an opinion, and are bullied in the classroom and the hallways,” Buyse said. “I’m one of hundreds of parents who are tired of this, and the lawsuit filed today will provide incentive for the school to move forward toward positive change and a genuine tolerance.”

The lawsuit follows a protest which occurred at Edina’s annual Veterans’ Day Assembly on Nov. 9, during which several students refused to stand during the playing of the National Anthem and ‘Taps,’ a piece played to honor fallen soldiers. The EHS administration affirmed students’ right to remain seated during the National Anthem and ‘Taps,’ and asked that other students respect their peers’ right to do so.

In relation to conduct during the playing of the National Anthem, the U.S. Flag Code States: 

“During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.” – United States Flag Code, § 171 (1923).

“I was appalled that a group was allowed to be disruptive and disrespectful while our high school honored fallen veterans. And please remember that these same veterans fought for their freedom to protest,” Edmond said. “And according to school policies, I am told I must respect the actions of these students and turn the other cheek. That’s why I’m here today.”

Following the assembly, the YCC posted a video to their Twitter account of the protest, and exchanged private messages in the club’s “GroupMe” messaging application. These messages were later leaked by an anonymous Twitter account known as the EHS Antifascists, and were perceived by many students to be offensive and racist. On Nov. 13, the EHS Antifascists posted a video condemning the YCC’s “alt-right agenda,” and threatened to approach the administration with the names of the students who sent the offensive messages if the YCC did not take action to quell this behavior (See Assembly Protest Leads to Anonymous Threats, Harassment).

Following the posting of the EHS Antifascists’ video, police were called into EHS to investigate. The video was taken down later the same day it was posted. The YCC was also instructed to delete their Twitter account and their GroupMe messaging group.

“The Edina High School Board believes that it can honor the First Amendment by honoring the speech of flag protesters. They’re right,” Kaardal said. “But the First Amendment also requires you to honor the free speech of those people who would disagree with the protesters, who would disrespect the protesters.”