The Republican Party chairman of an Oregon county is suing Portland Public Schools for allegedly coordinating efforts between district officials, the school board, teachers, and gun control groups for anti-gun walkouts, and for indoctrinating students on stricter gun control.
James Buchal filed the suit on behalf of two families who claim the district violated their children’s First Amendment rights. The suit contends “PPS officials have misused scarce educational resources for narrowly partisan and political objectives” to an “extraordinary degree.”
A year ago, like many students across the country, those in Portland schools joined walkouts to demand more gun control legislation after the Parkland, Florida school shootings. The district had acknowledged its support for the demonstrations in a statement, noting the walkouts were not protests but “organized school activities.”
According to Willamette Week, Buchal’s suit says taxpayer money was used to fund these protests without parental knowledge and thus violates the First Amendment.
Buchal also argues that “intimidation within the Portland schools also unconstitutionally interferes with the free speech rights of students.” The lawsuit details teacher, board and administrator support that enabled students to organize protests.
“In our role as union educators, we cannot legally encourage students to leave campus without permission,” the Portland Association of Teachers said in a statement in 2018. “However, in preparing for March 14th, I am sure many of you are already planning to incorporate lessons from U.S. history that illustrate the power of civil disobedience and direct action—especially by young people—in creating lasting social change.”
Buchal cited the PAT statement as evidence that PPS was attempting to “[manipulate] and [encourage] PPS children to take part in the planned demonstrations.”
The lawsuit also claims that students were used as “proxies” in PPS’s alleged efforts to further anti-gun legislation. He cites encouragement by teachers as a way to “groom” and “recruit” students to further “the political goals of the defendants.”
Buchal’s office alleges that young PPS students were subject to classroom projects that “[pursued] the Leftist agendas of PPS personnel.”
The suit contends further that students who differed with the gun control agenda were “subjected to severe bullying, intimidation and ostracism.”
The Portland district says Buchal’s claims are “baseless” and claims the over 16,000 documents released in regards to suit show its teachers were encouraging free speech, not squelching it.
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