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Lee’s Summit students protest plan to form conservative club

Lee's Summit West High School

Lee’s Summit West High School

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A protest erupted at Lee’s Summit West High School on Tuesday as some students work to establish a local chapter of Turning Point USA, a national right-wing organization that promotes conservative policies on school campuses.

A few students have approached administration about starting a chapter in the school, district spokeswoman Katy Bergen said. They met in the library on Tuesday to discuss forming the group, and in response, hundreds of students protested, holding LGBTQ flags and Black Lives Matter signs.

Video of the meeting, posted on YouTube by Turning Point USA, shows a couple of students — a boy and a girl — explaining that they want to start the group to offer a space for students to express and debate their conservative values ​​— something they say students might otherwise be afraid to do.

Many students filled the library to protest, while hundreds more protested outside in the courtyard. Protesters said they worry about having the group at school, arguing that the national organization espouses racist and anti-LGBTQ concepts.

“I joined the protest because I knew it’d be even more unsafe for minorities if this was going to happen, and I can’t stand watching my classmates fear for their lives,” student Azriel Holden told The Star.

With the large crowd protesting, the meeting was cut short. As the meeting grew heated and ended prematurely, someone flipped over a glass table in the library, causing it to shatter, Bergen said.

Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk posted on social media that “insane leftists” disrupted the meeting and smashed the table.

But Bergen told The Star that, “The table has been framed by some as a group action that was part of a protest plan. But it was in reality the poor decision of an individual as the meeting was wrapping up.”

“Administration is processing the incident in accordance with district discipline policy. Students returned to class peacefully and there was no further disruption to the school day.”

Turning Point USA, a nonprofit founded in 2012, states that its mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.” The group often follows far-right rhetoric, for example, increasing false claims of fraud in the 2020 election, according to PolitiFact.

It is more common to find Turning Point chapters on college campuses, where members say they want freedom to speak their conservative views — sparking protests. Former Kansas State University student Jaden McNeil, whose tweets in 2020 about the offensive murder of George Floyd drew protests, was president of the Turning Point chapter at that campus. He recently stepped down from a white nationalist organization.

Turning Point has been met with controversy as Kirk uses issues of race to rally supporters. Last year, Kirk went on a “Critical Racism Tour,” in which he argued Critical Race Theory is racist and amounts to “systemic racism” in schools. Critical Race Theory is a college and law school-level framework for evaluating the impact of racism on key institutions, and it is not taught in K-12 schools.

last month, Kirk tweeted: “There is an undeniable War on White People in The West.”

The group recently drew attention when the suspect in the mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket allegedly endorsed “great replacement theory,” an unsupported, fringe idea that claims immigration was a plot to take power away from white people.

According to The Washington Post, Kirk said he was “so proud” of Fox News host Tucker Carlson for promoting the theory and said, “Nothing he said there is controversial. It’s factual and it’s true.”

To start a club at Lee’s Summit West, students must submit an application and follow several steps to get approval from administration. Bergen said that students have yet to formally apply to form the club, and that Tuesday’s meeting was an early step in that process.

This story was originally published May 18, 2022 2:35 PM.

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Sarah Ritter covers K-12 education for The Kansas City Star. Formerly a reporter for the Quad-City Times, Sarah is a graduate of Augustana College.


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