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Got Milk? Why, Yes, We Have Harvey Milk

Chris Hampton,
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June 12, 2009

Yesterday morning, a sixth grader in California gave a report in one of her classes. That might not sound like terribly exciting news, except that the report was about Harvey Milk, and the student only got to give her report after the ACLU threatened her school with a lawsuit for censoring it.

Natalie Jones, a sixth grader at Mt. Woodson Elementary School in Ramona, California, had been given a class assignment to write a report on any subject she wanted. Natalie got a score of 49 out of a possible 50 points on her report about the gay civil rights icon. Students were then told to make PowerPoint presentations about their reports, which they would show to other students in the class. Natalie put together a 12-page presentation on Milk that you can view here.

But the day before Natalie was to give her presentation she was called into the principal’s office and told she couldn’t do so. Then the school sent letters to parents of students in the class, explaining that Natalie’s presentation was being rescheduled for a lunch recess and that students could only attend if they had parental permission due to the allegedly “sensitive” nature of the topic. School officials tried to justify all of this by claiming Natalie’s presentation triggered the school’s sex education policy.

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After the ACLU threatened to sue them for violating the First Amendment as well as the California Education Code, school officials finally backed down. Natalie has received a written apology, and school officials sent a letter about that apology to all the parents who got the original “warning” about the presentation. The school also agreed to bring its sex education policy into compliance with state law, and acknowledged that the mere mention of a person’s sexual orientation isn’t enough to invoke sex education policy. And perhaps most important of all, Natalie gave her presentationto the entire class Thursday morning.

Natalie’s mom Bonnie tells us it went really well. She’s terribly proud of Natalie, and we are too. But I suspect Harvey, if he were around today, might be proudest of all.

CORRECTION: The title has been amended to better clarify the subject of the this blog post.