Noah Christensen, a Nevada teenager who called his congressman to demand gun control, is now re-thinking his choice of words after finding himself suspended from school for dropping an F-bomb during the call, CNN is reporting.
It’s a case that pours several complex issues, stirs them into a pot, and creates a thorny legal stew that involves freedom of speech, the concept of teenagers being punished at school for what they do on their personal time, the subject of decorum when speaking to elected officials, and of course, the old bugaboo of gun control.
Here’s what happened: last week, Christensen, like so many teachers motivated to action by the Parkland school shooting, called his congressman to demand action on gun control. In this particular case, it was Mark Amodei, whose Reno office Christensen called to demand that he (Amodei) ban bump stocks and raise the minimum age to buy certain guns.
However, Christensen used what he admits is a poor choice of words.
“get off their f***ing a***s”
Amodei took exception to the use of the so-called “F-bomb,” and a member of his staff called Christensen’s school, Robert McQueen High School in Reno, and complained. The school suspended the 17-year-old junior for two days for “disrespectful behavior/language,” and, at least temporarily, relieved him of his duties as class secretary/treasurer.
News Update from CNN: He called his congressman and dropped an F-bomb – Noah Christensen, 17, dropped an F-bomb when he called his congressman’s office to demand action on gun control. The Nevada teen’s school suspended him for two days. He is now at… https://t.co/i9zES3esyA
— Ellie (@hoot_ellie) March 22, 2018
Now, Christensen and his family have lawyered up. Specifically, they’ve brought in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sent a letter to McQueen High School and the Washoe County School District, demanding that his suspension be overturned.
“[Disciplining Christensen in this way] will have a chilling effect on other students who are considering engaging in the political process.”
Similarly, ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story sent a letter to Amodei’s office, asking him to respect his teenage constituent’s First Amendment rights.
“It was inappropriate and unbecoming of your congressional office to seek to have this student punished. You owe this student a public apology for retaliating against him by enlisting the school to punish him on your behalf.”
Amodei is not having it.
“What am I going to apologize for?”
He also insists that he didn’t retaliate or ask for Christensen to be disciplined, he just wanted the young man’s school to be aware.
“Do I have a problem with this guy exercising his First Amendment rights? Absolutely not.”
Amodei also points out that he himself has been pushing the Nevada legislature to pursue some of the same forms of gun control Christensen is advocating, including banning bump stocks and raising the minimum age to buy certain weapons from 18 to 21.