Lawsuit alleges Grand Island school district ended newspaper over LGBTQ-focused issue

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A lawsuit filed Friday alleges that a Grand Island school district violated the First Amendment when it shut down a newspaper that covered LGBTQ topics.

In a press release, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said a former student, Marcus Pennell, and the Nebraska High School Press Association filed the lawsuit against Grand Island Northwest Public Schools and Superintendent Jeffrey Edwards.

Last March, Pennell, a transgender student, and others were prohibited from printing their pronouns or their chosen names in the newspaper, the ACLU says.

A few months later, the district got rid of its journalism program after the newspaper’s June 2022 issue covered several LGBTQ topics.

The ACLU says the school district initially “claimed” that the decision was unrelated to the June issue.

Later on, the ACLU obtained emails via a public records request, which gave further details on the district’s motivations to shutter the newspaper.

In an email to Edwards, Board of Education President Dan Leiser called the June issue a “revenge tactic” in response to the school banning students from printing their pronouns.

The lawsuit argues that the school’s decision to shut down the newspaper “violated plaintiffs’ First Amendment free speech rights,” according to the ACLU.

ACLU of Nebraska Legal and Policy Counsel Jane Seu released a statement on the lawsuit:

“At a time when so many trans and queer youth are being told to be anyone other than who they are, we are glad to be bringing this case. Students have a right to express themselves and participate in school activities free from discriminatory retaliation. What happened to Marcus and his peers should never happen again. We are hoping for a victory that sends a clear message to LGBTQ+ youth: you have a First Amendment right to be yourself and to talk and write about your life.”

Channel 8 has reached out to Edwards for a comment regarding the lawsuit.

Categories: Nebraska News, News