Judge rules Kansas high school violated law in suspending student for “threatening” artwork

A federal judge in Wichita ruled that Bluestem High School officials violated the free speech rights of BHS senior Sarah Boman when it suspended her for posting artwork on a school door that included the words “I’ll kill you all!”

U.S. District Judge Wesely Brown said in his Feb. 14 ruling that he found no evidence that the 17-year-old Boman, who plans to be an art major in college next year, was a danger to anyone or that her art was intended to be a threat.

In January, school officials voted to suspend Boman for the remainder of the school year. They later said she could return to school, but only if she agreed to first undergo a mental health evaluation.

Boman, who is a student assistant to the school’s art teacher, has defended the drawing as conceptual art that depicted the deranged thoughts of fictional madman. Boman said she learned about conceptual art in the school art class and created the drawing during study hall.

In his ruling, the judge said that once school officials understood the circumstances surrounding the poster, there was no basis for believing that the girl had willfully violated any school rule, physically disrupted the school or invaded the rights of other students.

‘[Boman] was a person about whom nobody had any concern,” said Bill Hays, one of the attorneys representing the girl. “As soon as the principal found out Sarah created the work, he stopped being concerned about it.”

Still, he said, they suspended her for the rest of the school year.

“It seemed to us to be a tremendous overreaction,” he said.