During a news conference Tuesday, Rep. Mark Amodei (R) -NV., responded to an ACLU letter in defense of a Reno student.
The student was suspended for using profanity in a call to Amodei’s office last week.
The 2nd district congressman said he will not withdraw his office’s complaint, apologize to the student or call for a reversal of the school’s actions.
Amodei told reporters in an over-the-phone news conference he had nothing to do with the decision to report Noah Christiansen’s call to McQueen High School in Reno.
“I found out about this when I was handed a letter Monday when I got off the plane flying back to Washington,” Amodei said.
Executive Director of ACLU Nevada Tod Story sent the letter to Amodei and McQueen High School. In it, he said the disciplinary action taken against Christiansen was an unconstitutional violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.
In both letters, Christiansen is quoted as having said lawmakers should “get off their f***ing a**es” and pursue legislation to prevent gun violence.
Christiansen made the call during the 17-minute student walkout held across the country March 14. The demonstrations marked the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Amodei said his staffer spoke to the school’s principal, describing Christiansen’s words as “disrespectful and vulgar.”
The congressman said the staffer did not ask for Christiansen to be disciplined but told the school he “stood out” among student callers that day “because he chose to use this language.”
Amodei said this is the first time his office has reached out to a school about a constituent call, but the call was “unique based on six and a half years of constituent service.”
He added that while he has told staff he wishes to be involved in decisions of this nature in the future, he will not be issuing an apology, retracting the complaint, or disciplining the staffer.
“If a guy in my office wants to exercise his free speech rights and call the school and say, ‘This phone call was particularly distinguishable based upon the content,’ what am I supposed to tell my guy? ‘Hey – you let this guy do whatever he wants and by the way, I’m going to attempt to restrict your First Amendment rights?’ Not gonna do that,” Amodei told reporters.
KNPR News asked to speak directly to the staffer who took the call, but Amodei’s office responded with a statement from the congressman:
“The responsibility is mine, I accept that, and I will be the individual making statements on all matters regarding what happened in my office.”
The congressman also declined to comment on the school’s discipline of Christiansen.
“I totally respect what those people do all day, every day, and I am not going to substitute my judgment for theirs,” he said.
Washoe County School District provided a statement on Christiansen’s discipline:
“The Washoe County School District honors, respects and adheres to the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. It is within this context that thousands of our students respectfully and appropriately used their First Amendment rights by participating in walk out actions on several of our campuses on March 14 as well as participated in dozens of other school-sanctioned activities related to this national movement.
“No students were suspended for participation in walk out events on March 14. However, the District cannot discuss specific discipline of individual students due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
“The District expects students to act appropriately and with decorum. Some students were disciplined for breaking student conduct codes or participating in other inappropriate behavior.”