MIAMI, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is renewing its call to Florida school Superintendents to support students’ rights in advance of a planned day of action on April 20 marking the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. In a letter sent to all Florida school superintendents, the ACLU of Florida urges school officials to “support the students … as they participate in the peaceful expression of their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom from discriminatory punishment, and freedom to move about and associate with their peers.”
The ACLU of Florida had previously sent letters to all Florida public school districts in advance of a previous day of action on March 14 urging officials to embrace student protests as teachable moment in civic participation. Nonetheless, the ACLU of Florida received troubling complaints from some students reporting violations of their constitutional rights—specifically school districts in St. Johns County, Palm Beach County, Marion County, Lee County, Polk County, Duval County and Pinellas County. The new letter sent by the ACLU this week renews the call for school districts to respect and embrace the free speech rights of students.
From the letter sent by Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida to Florida School Superintendents:
“In the days preceding and following March 14, 2018, a day designated by student leaders for walkouts in support of school and gun safety, the ACLU Foundation of Florida received several troubling reports of Florida schools violating the Constitutional rights of students.
“The majority of complaints by students related to three areas of concern. There were reports of the restriction of free speech rights. Other students reported that discriminatory punishments were meted out to those students participating in walkouts. Finally, reports came to the ACLU by students who found their free movement and association rights curtailed.
“I hope you will receive this letter in the spirit in which it’s sent: the issues of school safety and gun safety are of great public concern and students should be, and are, free to participate in the national dialogue taking place. The walkout planned for April 20, 2018 has been called by students and students should be free to participate without fear of punishment or unconstitutional interference by school workers. The violations of students’ constitutional rights on or about March 14 should not be repeated."
A copy of the full letter is available here: https://www.aclufl.org/sites/default/files/general_letter_to_superintendents_walkouts_4.20.18.pdf