Kara Zupkus is with Young America's Foundation, the organization behind the "9/11: Never Forget Project." She explains that Ely High School officials denied students the right to host their project, which was to plant 2,977 flags to commemorate the lives lost in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
According to Zupkus, the project was initially approved to be hosted by the student council of the school – but then the school revoked that approval, claiming YAF is a "very political organization" and that the school wanted to remain apolitical.
"They said you're not allowed to be associated with YAF, and then [they went] even further and just completely stopped the event from happening, completely revoked the event from the students," Zupkus explains.
"So, our attorneys sent a letter on Wednesday [September 15, 2021] to the high school letting them know they have to issue a public apology on all of their social media accounts, apologizing for stepping on the rights of their students as well as creating new policies in place to prevent this from happening again in the future. Otherwise," she adds, "we will take them to court."
In the letter, YAF deputy general counsel Steven Mairella accuses the school and the school district of engaging in "unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination."
"School officials are not free to simply suppress expressions they do not agree with to avoid discomfort or controversy resulting from that expression – particularly when those views are protected political speech," the letter explains.
Zupkas continues: "They have ten [business] days to respond to the letter … and the apology has to be within three business days when they agree to settle with us."
The group's spokeswoman argues that YAF is an ideological group, not political – and is not associated with any party or candidate. "That's kind of an excuse that we see often times that schools like to throw in there," she concludes. "But YAF is not a political organization."
AFN reached out to the high school and the school board for comment and did not receive a response.