NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Nearly one month after Northampton High School students were asked to sign a pledge, civil rights lawyers say the actions were unconstitutional.
It all started one Wednesday afternoon, five days after the Newtown school massacre. Sawyer Driver-Schroder was working at the wood shop during his fourth period class.
"We heard some commotion, we had to stay in our rooms, and then we heard something about us being let out," said Northampton High senior Sawyer Driver-Schroder.
On December 19 th, school officials found a threatening note in a bathroom inside Northampton High School. Students were dismissed early as police combed the school for evidence. The search turned up no suspects. But three days later, students were asked to write out and sign this pledge.
"In the wake of recent acts in schools including the school shooting in Connecticut and the recent threat here at the high school, I _________________________ with concern for myself, my classmates, and my school, pledge that I take these incidents seriously. With this in mind I understand that it is not only important to be able to identify whomever may make any type of these threats, for the safety of the school, but also for the safety and concern of the individual making the threat. Any information I may have or may come across will be passed along to the appropriate school staff members."
Driver-Schroder was one of the many students who wrote it and signed it. "I don't think is as unconstitutional as they are saying, because we are in a high school, a public environment where your safety is actually a concern to everyone," he said outside the Elm Street school.
The action sparked a debate between the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwestern District Attorney's Office; after lawyers said the signing of pledges was an infringement of free speech rights. But the DA says the measure was a legally justifiable safety precaution, as the pledge was voluntary and part of a handwriting analysis.
Hannah Young told 22News she signed pledges in high school often. "Yeah, all the time, stuff to not drink, not do drugs; kind of to ensure the safety of other students," said Young in Northampton Tuesday, who believes high school students are old enough to be held accountable.
Parents say given the climate surrounding schools during that time, the actions are reasonable.
"I can't see that the pledge [will] hold students legally accountable. Maybe it sets the mood and it stretches the seriousness of such a threat made," said J'aime Bourdon of Northampton
The pledges will not be used outside of the investigation, which is still active.