In its landmark 1969 ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court found that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." The ACLU argued the case on behalf of Mary Beth Tinker, defending her right to wear a black armband at school to protest the Vietnam War. We continue to fight for students' constitutional right to free speech.
Recent ACLU work protecting freedom of speech in schools has included the ACLU's advocacy for the student protestors and against police brutality in Puerto Rico. The ACLU is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to conclude a pending investigation of the Puerto Rico Police Department that was initiated in 2008. Better police training, supervision, and monitoring of officers' use of force is needed to ensure that all residents of Puerto Rico -- especially the most vulnerable -- are safe from unlawful police violence and remain free to exercise their First Amendment rights. Learn More >>
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The ACLU has also initiated a nation-wide campaign challenging unconstitutional web filtering by schools and libraries.
Our Don't Filter Me project is pursuing the removal of web filters on school computers that are unconstitutionally blocking access to hundreds of LGBT websites, including sites that contain vital resources on subjects like bullying and student gay-straight alliances. We filed lawsuits in several school districts and sent demand letters in many more on behalf of students and organizations whose sites are being blocked. The filters do not block access to comparable anti-LGBT websites that address that discuss the same topics and that violates the First Amendment. Learn More >>
Technology and Liberty - Students (feature): Today, the growing concern about drugs and violence in schools often trumps students’ privacy rights. Federal courts have found that students' Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizure do no always apply in a public school setting. The ACLU believes that schools are not constitutional dead zones, and continues to fight for students' privacy rights, challenging unreasonable strip-searches, electronic monitoring, and searches and seizures of property such as cell phones.
LGBT Youth and Schools (feature): We’re working to make public schools safe and bias-free for LGBT students, defending their free speech in school, and working to help students start gay-straight alliance clubs. Check out our information for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Learn about your rights, download resources and get support here.
Your Right to Free Expression (2003 resource): The Bill of Rights guarantees that the government can never deprive people in the U.S. of certain fundamental rights including the right to freedom of religion and to free speech and the due process of law. Many federal and state laws give us additional rights, too.
Judge Rules in Favor of Michigan Student's Right to Wear Anti-War T-Shirt to School (2003 press release)
PA Court Says School's Punishment for Internet Speech Violated Student's Rights (2003 press release)