How Turning Point USA Attempted to Infiltrate A Missouri High School (And How Students Organized to Fight Back)

A white extremist group attempted to infiltrate a Missouri high school. Here’s how students organized to fight back.

LEE’S SUMMIT, MO – Early last week, Lee’s Summit West High School (LSW) students Noah Symes and Faith Glasgow began noticing posters advertising a potential new student club meeting for Tuesday, May 17th accumulating around the school.

The potential club? Turning Point USA’s aspiring Lee’s Summit West chapter.

As we’ve previously reported, Turning Point USA is an extremist group with ties to white supremacists and whose Founder endorsed the Great Replacement Terrorist Ideology which motivated the killer who committed mass murder of Black people in Buffalo, New York this past weekend.

Noah Symes, organizer and writer, recounts the events leading up to the May 17th petition signing as follows. 

“Last week, posters for Turning Point LSW chapter began popping up along the walls. By Wednesday, I had made videos on snapchat ranting about the national organization. At first, it was just jokes back and forth but by Thursday as I began to do more research on Turning Point USA’s operation in schools, I came up with the idea to actually protest.

People started coming to me asking questions about what TPUSA actually was and I began to get serious about protesting it. We ended up making infographic informationals to post on social media instead. To continue to spread awareness along with the infographic, we created an info packet to send to the principal and any needed administrators to explain the petition statement.

It also provided background to why the protest against TPUSA-LSW was needed. The info packet, student testimony, and petition sheets were finalized monday.”

The “info packet” created by students was an eighteen-page document detailing Turning Point USA’s egregious controversies against the LGBT community, advocating for gun use within schools, discouragement of LGBT+ education, and overall disruption within schools, as well as the non-profit’s direct involvement in the january 6th capital insurrection.

The packet had four writers; Symes and Glasgow who assisted with the packet, as well as main writers Harper Barnard and Ava Wischnewski.

Among listing these offenses, the info packet offers one key argument to both administration and those protesting: “It is the opinion of these writers, as well as the petition signers, that Turning Point USA should in no way be affiliated with Lee’s Summit West High School… To let TPUSA into our school would be in complete violation of this school’s stated values.” 

This info packet was key to the mobilization of Lee’s Summit West students: it provided a much needed explanation of what Turning Point USA was, the significance of such a club at LSW, and offered solid reasoning to sign the petition. 

The info packet, social media infographics, and petitioning sheets were all in preparation for an anti- Turning Point USA petition signing. This “signing” was designed to be during the same day, time, and location as the TPUSA’s first LSW chapter meeting in the library.

Monday morning Symes, Glasgow, and “petition signers” tasked with collecting signatures on Tuesday met to divy instructions, petition sheets, and info packets. During this same time, an email was sent by organizers to head principal Dr. Chad Hertzog detailing grievances with Turning Point USA. 

The petition opened Monday morning and by the end of the day had received over 80 signatures. The email by then had received a response, calling organizers Symes and Glasgow to meet with Hertzog during the same time of the upcoming protest. 

Tuesday morning, most students were either aware of the protest or knew that something was going to happen with regards to TPUSA. After 3rd hour, students began gathering in the library. Only 50 people were allowed in the library, leaving the rest of the protestors to flow into overflow rooms.

The petition signing began to move to the courtyard for more space. Ultimately, there were four people taking signatures for the over seven-hundred students in the courtyard. 

When reflecting on the overall effectiveness of the petition signing, Symes spoke primarily praise;

“we successfully moved 700 kids from the inside of a hallway to the courtyard. Our petition holders were able to successfully carry out the protest without either one of the key organizers being there. In total, we collected over 500 signatures in just two days.” 

As most organizers are used to, however, it was not without its faults. “as for detriments, we definitely underestimated the amount of people that would see the infographic and show up to the protest.

During the TPUSA meeting, a kid who was not affiliated with us came into the meeting, flipped a table, and shattered glass. This reflected negatively on our protest as political pundits continued to post pictures and write statements.”

Indeed conservatives have taken a small piece of the day and blew it out of proportion, with pundit Pete Mundo making several posts and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk posting the out-of context footage on instagram, captioning “insane leftist disrupts TPUSA meeting.” 

When asked for key takeaways for future replications, Symes offers advice from the current protest;

“Things that were effective include having a professional group of students leading for effective discourse, well organized organizers, keeping students well-prepped on the points listed within the info packet, and  having a simple , eye-catching and concise measure including all important information such as the infographic were all very effective.”

A shortened version of the info packet with more digestible information for all students could be a more effective means of the LSW example. The infographic and social media in general proved to be an effective strategy, mobilizing over 50 students in just one night.

Despite a fairly peaceful and successful protest, were organizer demands met? 

“As of right now, our one demand of  “Turning Point USA should in no way be affiliated with Lee’s Summit West High School,” is not being met and it is looking like it will not be met. This is not only because it’s the end of the school year, but also because Dr. Hertzog told us that the TPUSA kids were originally looking to become a school sponsored club.”

“The students did not go through all of the required steps to achieve this and are now looking to be known as a “student led organization”. Student led organizations do not need a club sponsor or all club verification steps completed: all they need is a teacher supervisor and a place to meet.”

“Because they are not a sponsored club, they are not officially associated with the school. Therefore, our school cannot tell them that they cannot have a third party club.” 

 In response, Symes states that LSW students will “Continue to petition, protest, and get testimony, and show admin/outside people that the student voice will not be silenced.”

This is a developing story. 

Writer’s note: as students begin to look towards organizing in august, it is important that we all build on the stepping stones of others work. The protests at Lee’s Summit West should now serve as one of those stepping stones. We can now clearly see that social media infographics, small designated leaders/backups, clear methods of communication, and designing ways to inform students quickly on the cause all create effective success of student mobilizing.

At the same time, it is important that all students continue to be wary of any attempted role administration attempts to have in a protest. Let me be clear: they will never be on your team. Without reliable backup organizers in place at LSW, it is safe to say that Symes and Glasgow’s removal from their protest by Hertzog would have led to its demise. Overall, LSW’s protest can and should be replicated.

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