ACLU Launches Inquiry into Governor's Mentorship Program for Ohio's Schools

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
December 17, 2014 12:00 am

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December 17, 2014

Community Connections May Violate Students’ Religious Liberty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the ACLU Program on Religious Freedom and Belief today expressed serious concerns that Governor John Kasich’s recently announced Community Connections mentorship program may violate the First Amendment. The organization intends to investigate.

In a letter to Governor Kasich and Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Ross, the ACLU questioned the constitutionality of a requirement that public schools must partner with a religious institution to participate in a new grant program, according to ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link.

“Not only does this clearly interfere with the religious freedom of Ohio families, it places an unconstitutional burden on our public schools and erects another roadblock for at-risk students to access educational opportunities.” Link said. “As guardians of the First Amendment in Ohio, we will launch a full inquiry into this matter.”

Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said, “Conditioning a public school’s receipt of government funds on collaboration with a religious organization raises serious constitutional concerns. Although improving educational outcomes within our communities is an important goal, it cannot be achieved by unconstitutional means.”

“The First Amendment of the Constitution provides very strong protection against the government imposing religion upon children in public schools,” explained Heather Weaver of the ACLU Program on Religious Freedom and Belief. “This new program appears to disregard those protections and injects religion into our classrooms.”

To further its investigation, the ACLU of Ohio has requested various records concerning the Community Connections mentorship program.

ACLU letter to Governor Kasich and Superintendent Ross is available at:
http://www.acluohio.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/LetterToGovKasichReCommunityConnectorsProgram2014_1217.pdf

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