Minnesota school district denies punishing boy for backing Packers
By The Associated Press
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
"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."
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