By Noah Christiansen, Robert McQueen High School student and activist
I remember going home and crying after my suspension.
My school suspended me for protesting, for calling my representative and advocating for comprehensive gun reform measures such as banning bump stocks and raising the age limit to purchase guns. I got suspended for two days and lost my position as class secretary/treasurer—two things that could affect what college I get into.
I like to think that I’m a good student. I’ve had no previous behavioral problems; I’ve been in 15 clubs within my three years here, and I’m currently taking five AP courses. But at the time of my suspension, my school seemed to have a different opinion on what made a “good student.”
I was extremely confused. It wasn’t a school sponsored event, so how did the school have the legal jurisdiction to go through with the suspension? I contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. Amy Rose, ACLU of Nevada’s legal director, assured me that everything would turn out fine. She said the school did, in fact, violate my rights.
Because there was a debate tournament in Las Vegas during the time of my suspension, the school allowed me to go, but continued my suspension the day after the tournament. While in Vegas I met with the ACLU of Nevada. They made me feel comfortable with the fact that the school violated my rights and that I was able to do something about it with the ACLU’s help. The fact that just days after my suspension I was able to meet with people from the ACLU of Nevada really shows how much they care about my rights and the Constitution.
I made it to the final round of the state championship for policy debate and then went back to being suspended, but, instead of being sad about my suspension, the ACLU helped me with the stress of the situation and told me to focus on my win. They had already sent out a legal letter to the school telling the school to revoke my suspension and to give me my class position back, and there was nothing I could do but wait for the school’s response.
Coming back to school after my suspension was a very interesting experience.
Many students knew what had happened to me, because the media covered my story. With the ACLU of Nevada’s help, I was able to share my story. It was a surreal experience seeing myself on major news sources, including CNN, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and others. People all over Reno heard about it, and I was able to speak at the March for our Lives event to spread a positive message about the importance of students’ voices—especially in the context of gun rights.
The school revoked my suspension soon afterward. My record was officially clean. The ACLU of Nevada fought to have my suspension revoked, and they made it happen. I then received my class position back, and I realized how much the ACLU has helped me. No one should be suspended for protesting, but this experience showed me that if one gets in trouble, they should always know their rights.
The experience that I had with the ACLU of Nevada was one that I will never forget. It restored my faith in democracy and taught me we should all know our rights. Whether you are a child, student, adult, or anywhere in between, you have constitutional rights and those rights need to be upheld.
The ACLU is truly incredible, and I will be forever grateful for their help. With their amazing legal skills, their use of media, their quick responses to my questions, and the amazing personalities of each and every individual from the ACLU Nevada, I’m confident saying that if you ever have your rights violated, you should contact the ACLU.