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ACLU reminder: student protesters have rights

March 13, 2018

In advance of Wednesday’s National School Walkout, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is reminding public school administrators, principals and school board members that students have First Amendment rights.

Students across the country are planning on walking out of their classrooms tomorrow both in memory of the 17 teenagers killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and in a call for stricter gun laws.

The ACLU of Indiana said it is “inspired by these courageous young people and committed to protecting their rights.” Still, the organization noted while some school districts are working with student leaders to ensure no one is punished for speaking out, there are reports of public schools in other states threatening disciplinary action against the student protesters.

“This is a unique moment in history, and a singular opportunity for many high school students,” Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, wrote in the letter. “We urge you to foster your students’ civic awakening, and help to ensure the health of our democracy in decades to come.”

The ACLU is emphasizing that students do not lose their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Although public schools can discipline students for missing class, they cannot punish the protesters more harshly than they otherwise would. Also, the ACLU is encouraging school administrators to “encourage this spirit of activism and civic purpose” and refrain from penalizing the students who walk out.

“The students of Parkland and from around the country are giving the rest of the world a lesson in the power of activism,” Heneger wrote. “We encourage all educators – all adults – to act wisely and compassionately and to listen.”

Additional resources for student protesters from ACLU are available here.

 

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