ACLU Vows Legal Action Over Honor Student's Expulsion for Displaying Artwork

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
January 20, 2000 12:00 am

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LEON, KANSAS — As school officials convened this morning to hear an appeal of a high school senior expelled for displaying artwork deemed “threatening,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri vowed to bring a court challenge if the punishment is not rescinded.

as officials acknowledged in this case, clearly present no threat.

In a May 1999 letter to school superintendents in the state, the ACLU had warned of the negative effects of so-called zero tolerance policies established in the wake of the tragic school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

“When will schools learn that different does not mean dangerous?” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “Punishing students like Sarah Boman only perpetuates the view that intolerance of difference is permissible.”

“If school officials persist in punishing Sarah Boman for what is clearly nonthreatening artistic expression, the ACLU is prepared to seek a restraining order in federal court,” he added. The appeals committee has five days to rule on today’s hearing.

At issue is a short poem by Boman, written from the point of view of a madman who was angry because someone had killed his dog. As with other artworks that she had created throughout her four years at Bluestem High School, Boman posted the piece on a classroom door. Shortly afterwards, the principal summoned her to his office, suspended her, and, at a subsequent hearing, expelled Boman for the remainder of the school year.

Boman said she created the artwork at the suggestion of an art professor at Bethany College, where she hopes to be accepted next fall. One of the items required for her portfolio, the professor explained, is an example of “repetitive” art in which the artist writes words in a spiral pattern.

“You know who killed my dog,” she wrote in the poem. “I’ll kill you if you don’t tell me who killed my dog. Tell me who did it. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.” Boman told school officials that students often write “point of view” poems and stories and that she does not have a dog.

ACLU volunteer attorneys from the law firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon in Kansas City are representing the Boman family in this matter.

The ACLU’s legal complaint can be read online at

The text in Boman’s artwork is below.

Please tell me who killed my Dog.
I miss him very much – He was my best friend.
I do miss him terribly.
Did you do it?
Did you kill my dog?
Do you know who did it?
You know, don’t you?
I know you know who did it.
You know who killed my dog.
I’ll kill you if you don’t tell me who killed my dog.
Tell me who did it.
Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.
Please tell me now.
How could anyone kill a dog?
My dog was the best.
Man’s best friend.
Who could shoot their best friend?
Dammit, Who?
Who killed my dog?
Who killed him?
Who killed my dog?
I’ll kill you all!
You all killed my dog.
You all hated him.
Who are you that you could kill my best friend?
Who killed my dog?

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