Hononegah faces lawsuit file by student

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ROCKTON - Jeremy Oster, on behalf his 16-year-old daughter, Madison Oster, has filed a lawsuit against the Hononegah School District claiming its policies led to discrimination of those supporting the second amendment.

"She was treated horribly for standing up for a position which might be considered unpopular. The school is not supposed to be ostracizing and making you into an object of scorn and ridicule. It should foster divergent viewpoints. High school students don't need to be shielded from opposing viewpoints or those considered unpopular," said David G. Sigale of Sigale Law Firm, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

Hononegah Assistant Superintendent Kim Suedbeck said the district hasn't been officially served notice of the lawsuit yet and she said she would be refraining from comment until district officials can review the complaint.

A complaint filed July 30 in the U.S. District Court in Rockford names the district as well as Superintendent Michael Dugan, executive associate principal Chad Dougherty and Principal Eric Flohr.

The lawsuit is being funded by 2nd Amendment Foundation out of Bellevue, Washington, according to Sigale.

During a walkout event at Hononegah High School on March 14 held in partial response to the shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018, Hononegah administrators allowed students to express viewpoints promoting gun control and restrictions, but segregated students with opposing views such as Madison Oster.

Prior to the walkout, Jeremy Oster notified the district his daughter would be carrying signs expressing her pro-gun views. On the day of the event, she and five other pro-gun rights student were made to wait until all their classmates holding the opposing viewpoints had exited.

The complaint states Assistant Executive Principal Dougherty wouldn't allow pro-gun rights students onto the football field at first, requiring them to stand with their signs on the sidewalk. When Madison Oster asked why they weren't allowed to stand with everyone else, Dougherty suggested they would disturb the peace and start a fight, according to the lawsuit.

The students were eventually ushered to the field, but were required to remain separated from other participants, out of everyone else's sight or hearing. Dougherty called the pro-gun right students troublemakers and Flohr told them they were the only ones who felt that way, according to the lawsuit.

At the end of the walkout, Dougherty subjected the pro-gun rights students to taunts of classmates by holding them aside while all of the other students walked past them into the building, the lawsuit states. One student yelled at Madison Oster to kill herself and another student took picture of the pro-gun rights group, which reportedly became an online meme and method of ridicule. Before returning to class, Dougherty warned the small pro-gun rights group not to bully the students with different views. Ultimately, Madison Oster stayed home from school for a week due to bullying she suffered as a result of the walkout, the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiffs in the case are seeking monetary damages and attorney's fees.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has also criticized Hononegah Community High School for alleged discrimination against a student's First Amendment rights stemming from the school's handling of the March 14 school walkout event in a letter sent by ACLU-IL Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca K. Glenberg.

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