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Minnesota school district denies punishing boy for backing Packers

By The Associated Press

01.09.01

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NEW PRAGUE, Minn. — The New Prague Intermediate School is denying that it kept a student from attending a party with the Minnesota Vikings because he was vocal fan of the Green Bay Packers.

In recently filed legal documents, attorneys for the New Prague School District deny "that Plaintiff's son 'Rocky' was punished, or penalized, in any way because he is a Green Bay Packers fan or because he 'expressed his fandom.' "

Rocky Sonkowsky and his father, Roy, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the school district last month, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated.

The suit, filed by the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, said Rocky was barred from a party at the Vikings headquarters in Eden Prairie in 1999 because he wanted to wear his Packers jersey.

The district's response to the lawsuit says Rocky was punished for misbehaving, not for cheering for the Packers. According to the documents, a teacher had spoken with Rocky on several occasions about disrespectful behavior toward staff and students.

Late last month, more than 50 teachers and students rallied in support of the school district. Mary Hagel, a mother who helped organize the rally, said Rocky was barred from the party because he was mouthing off to teachers.

"The true facts are that the teachers did not discriminate," Hagel told the crowd. "(Rocky) was saying Cris Carter and the Vikings stink. ... He was disrupting class. He was mouthing off to teachers. He was also saying that he didn't want to go."

Joni Thome, a volunteer MCLU attorney, said in December, "I would caution people against spreading false information. ... It's about school administrators and teachers squelching Rocky's right to express his affinity for a team of the National Football League."

Update

Federal judge: Boy has no right to wear Packers jersey to school
Dispute arose after fourth-grader was barred from sporting Green Bay football jersey at Minnesota Vikings party.  04.12.02

Previous

Student sues after being told to pack in Packers jersey
Federal lawsuit claims Minnesota school district barred fourth-grader from class party with the Vikings for wearing Green Bay Packers apparel.  12.18.00

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