A school district in Minnesota canceled a 9/11 memorial event organized by a conservative activist group, justifying it by saying the school wants to remain “apolitical.”
Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the group that organizes “9/11: Never Forget Project” events nationwide, wrote in a news report that the Ely Memorial High School Student Council was organizing the event, which featured the planting of 2,977 American flags, before school officials called it off.
YAF accused the district of “trampling on the Constitution and the free speech rights of its students.”
According to The Timberjay, Ely Memorial principal Megan Anderson had knowledge of the event and ostensibly approved its “display advertisements … developed for local media outlets.” Ely Public Schools administrators, however, soon stepped in to “disassociate” the student council’s event from YAF, an action which eventually led to the event’s cancellation altogether.
“We are not partnering with the Young America Foundation,” superintendent Erik Erie told The Timberjay. “What we try to do is to stay apolitical. YAF certainly has a strong political bandwidth on different issues.”
Erie added that the school’s student council advisor “unwittingly” approved the event without prior knowledge of what YAF was, and that school administrators would have canceled a similar event if it were held by a liberal activist group.
“Right or wrong, if it was a politically liberal action committee or organization, we wouldn’t endorse that either. Or anything in the middle,” he said.
YAF’s report claims the superintendent later “flip-flopped” when he told them the event was canceled due to COVID-19. Erie told YAF that administrators were uncomfortable with the intermingling of students and the community while there’s an ongoing “high rate of community transmission.”
“He did not elaborate as to how an outdoor flag display commemorating innocents murdered by radical Islamists on 9/11 would increase COVID-19 transmission,” YAF said.
The group also questioned how this explanation could be reconciled with the high school’s hosting of a Friday night football game in which there were no social distancing or masking requirements.
“On top of bringing unwarranted controversy into a 9/11 remembrance, Ely Memorial High School has violated the free speech rights of its students by engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination,” the group said. “YAF is not a ‘political’ organization and has maintained its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status without issue since its inception. YAF annually honors the memory of 9/11 as part of that tax exempt mission.”
YAF said it is actively considering legal action against Ely Public Schools.