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Entries in Constitutional Conversation (4)


Warning: This Column is about THE LAW

Journal of the Kansas Bar Association

What I'm about to write may shock you, so be prepared. But this month's column is about THE LAW Yes, a legal column. More than just that, it's a First Amendment column. So, grab some smelling salts, get back in your chair, and once you've finished reading this, you might just qualify for CLE credit. Doubtful, but think positive.

You see, a long time ago, a high school library here in the metro had an award-winning book on its shelves that was removed by order of the school board. The book, "Annie on My Mind" by Nancy Garden, recounts a story of a romantic relationship between two high school girls. The book is fiction. But the controversy resulting from the school board's decision to remove the book was anything but; once placed, and then removed, several students sought to assert their First Amendment rights to have the book kept on the shelf. The year was 1995.

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UMKC School of Law student plays important role in recent Sandra Day O’Connor forum

UMKC Law School News

When former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke in the Kansas City area in November, a UMKC School of Law student played an important role in her visit.

O’Connor visited with more than 1200 high school students on the campus of Johnson County Community College on the afternoon of November 12, speaking about the importance of their role in government. Prior to that, the job fell to third-year student Sara Hofeditz Christensen to make sure those students were ready for that message. Through a summer internship with the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, Hofeditz Christensen wrote curriculum for a summer camp focusing on student rights. It was through this internship that she became involved with the Johnson County First Amendment Foundation—the organization who organized O’Connor’s forum­—and she was called upon to work with Ken Thomas, an Advanced Placement government teacher at Blue Valley Northwest High School, to create a curriculum around the event.

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Sandra Day O’Connor student forum

Liz Kuhlmann

BVNW AP Government and AP US History students took a field trip to listen to Sandra Day O'Connor, first woman Supreme Court Justice, give a student forum.

Over 1200 students from all over the Blue Valley area were given a once in a lifetime opportunity earlier today as they visited Yardley Hall to listen to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speak in a forum about her experience as the first woman to serve on the court, and about law and federalism in general.

Government teacher Ken Thomas said he wanted to accomplish two things with the presentation. The first item on his list was stressing the importance of civil education, and Thomas believes O’Connor did this well in her speech. The second objective was to emphasize how wonderful a story O’Connor has.

“Her story demonstrates that hard work and perseverance can overcome so many obstacles,” Thomas said. “The fact that she graduated at the top of her class from Stanford University. She applied to 40 law firms, and they straight up turned her down and said they wouldn’t hire her because they didn’t hire women … Here is a person who is so far ahead of her time, the criticism that was reaped upon her when she was nominated. She made a point of saying that you shouldn’t not do something just because you’re the first. She did a really great job of saying it’s OK to be first. It was just a really powerful message that she gave.”

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‘You can make a difference’ on issues, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor tells students

The Kansas City Star

This much former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor knew:

More than a thousand high school students were waiting in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College, bused in from 25 area high schools Tuesday, assembled to hear her message of civic duty.

What she didn’t know was the back story that led her there.

That was the real-life drama of high school students 20 years ago in Olathe who stood before their school board — and ultimately a federal judge — asserting their First Amendment rights.

“What was the outcome?” O’Connor asked as she listened to the story backstage.

The wheels were turning inside her head. She was going to add this story — how teenagers had interceded when a school board moved to pull an award-winning book from its school library’s shelves — to the message she was about to deliver to the students:

“Don’t be afraid to get involved in issues of public law. We need you.”

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