ACLU Freedom Files: "Youth Speak" Showcases Young People Who Stand Up for Their Rights

June 5, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The ACLU Freedom Files helps viewers get to know the everyday people whose rights are threatened and shows the human side of our fight to protect civil liberties. The “Youth Speak” episode, premiering this June, tells the stories of young people who fought back when their rights were violated and highlights activists who are working to protect the rights of their peers.

“I hear people say that young people today are apathetic and not engaged in the issues of the day,” said American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Ben Wizner, who has represented some of the young people profiled. “The ‘Youth Speak’ episode challenges this assumption and features young people who are standing up for themselves.”

“Youth Speak,” which airs on June 8 at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT on Link (satellite) TV and on June 10 at noon EDT/PDT on Court TV, makes clear that young people have the same rights as everyone else, but are often treated as if the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to them. In many schools, for instance, students’ writings are censored, backpacks and lockers are searched without cause, and low-income students are expected to learn in wretched conditions.

Aaron Peckham created the slang Web site only to find that, under new legislation enacted by Congress but challenged by the ACLU, he could be jailed or fined for the site’s content. Now he’s part of a lawsuit to protect free speech on the Internet. In another story, eighth-grader Anthony Latour posted his rap lyrics on the Internet as part of a competition with another student and subsequently had his house searched by a SWAT team, was arrested and was expelled from school. He battled the school’s order on First Amendment grounds, and was reinstated. Tired of the deplorable conditions at her California high school, Alondra Jones joined forces with students across the state and helped win a multimillion-dollar settlement aimed at improving education. Highlighting these and other inspiring stories, “Youth Speak” shows the power that young people have in a democracy.

Nationwide, local groups are using The ACLU Freedom Files to start discussions, build awareness, and take action. ACLU affiliates and outside groups are hosting viewing parties, “talk-backs,” and other innovative activities around the programs.

“Freedom Files shows how everyday people change the world,” said ACLU President Nadine Strossen. “The young men and women featured in this episode are already leaders, fighting adult fights and improving our democracy.”

The ACLU and award-winning producer/director Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed, Unconstitutional) teamed up to create The ACLU Freedom Files, a series of 10 half-hour episodes. The series tells personal stories and features well-known actors, comedians, activists, and the attorneys who bring these stories before the courts. The show is produced and directed by Jeremy Kagan. In addition to airing on Link TV and Court TV, the previously aired episodes are available for free viewing at, and DVD copies of the shows can be purchased on the Web site.

In late July, the collector’s edition two-disc set featuring this season’s ten 30-minute episodes will be distributed by The Disinformation Company and available in retail stores. The set will offer subtitles in Spanish, Arabic, and closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

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