Lee’s Summit West HS divided on student organization


LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — A protest at Lee’s Summit West High School on Tuesday opened up a conversation about free speech.

Earlier this week, a group of students from Lee’s Summit West held a preliminary meeting to begin a chapter of Turning United States in high school.

According to the district, the meeting ended prematurely after a student knocked over a glass table, shattering it.

The administration is handling the incident in accordance with its disciplinary policy.

TPUSA describes itself as a national organization promoting conservative values ​​such as the free market, capitalism, limited government, and freedom on school campuses.

But protesters say it is not an organization that should be affiliated with Lee’s Summit West, given the national organization’s reputation and track record.

TPUSA President-Elect Kali Michael says this record is undeserved.

“With a chapter in a high school or college, we’re nonpartisan, which means we don’t align with any political party — Republican or Democrat,” Michael said. “As a chapter in high school, we don’t discuss moral issues.”

As president, she hopes to create a safe place where people can exchange conservative ideas and opinions in a respectful way.

“A lot of people, like the protesters, say we’re the ones who divide, we’re the ones who alienate people and make them uncomfortable,” Michael said. “But they’re the ones who reject these claims that we’re racist, homophobic — a hate group. We’re none of that, we’ve shown that we’re none of that.”

Grace Gard, a senior from Lee’s Summit West who was present at Tuesday’s protest, said she was disappointed with how the meeting went because most of the students were peaceful.

“We never wanted to silence those who have different opinions from us,” Gard said. “We are not at all against other opinions or people who identify with the conservative side of things. This is strictly a protest against the affiliation between TPUSA and Lee’s Summit West High School.

The Gard is concerned about the national reputation and track record of TPUSA. She believes this organization has the potential to endanger marginalized students and teachers.

“When you put all of this together, all of these very egregious instances of hate and discrimination, and you pair that with a public school, it just doesn’t add up,” Gard said. “Especially with the school’s written values.”

She would much rather see a “Young Conservatives Club” unaffiliated with an “organization tied to that name tied to so much hate.”

A petition was started on May 16 by some of the protesters and when completed it will be handed over in physical form to the administration.

“The protest, the petition, none of that will stop us,” Michael said.

The week’s events prompted dozens of people on both sides to protest at the district school board meeting on Thursday night.

Several parents took to the podium to express their frustration and anger. Others asked for a compromise.

Although their values ​​and perspectives may differ, it’s a sentiment Michael and Gard can share.

“We students, who may not be on this side of the political spectrum, would be fully interested in attending these meetings, listening and sitting with an open mind and having educated adult discussions,” he said. Gard said.

It’s something that Michael is also open to.

“We think the importance of conversation has been very diluted over the past few years, and we want to bring back the value of discussion,” Michael said. “And that’s exactly what our chapter is set to do.”

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