NEW ORLEANS – As students head back to school for the fall, the ACLU of Louisiana is reminding school leaders to respect the constitutional rights of all students. In a letter sent today to public school administrators and board members, the organization encouraged school leaders to create safe, equitable and inclusive learning environments and warned against infringing on students’ constitutional rights.
“Courts have long held that students do not relinquish their rights at the schoolhouse gate, so it’s important for educators to understand and uphold these fundamental legal protections and cultivate safe, equitable and inclusive learning environments for all,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “The ACLU of Louisiana has a long tradition of defending the rights of students in Louisiana public schools, and we will remain vigilant against attempts to infringe on those rights.”
The ACLU of Louisiana has repeatedly gone to court to challenge unconstitutional school policies and practices that violate students’ rights. For example, in 2017 the ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit challenging Webster Parish School District’s widespread practice of subjecting students to school-sponsored Christian prayer, proselytizing, and other religious rituals. Under a court-approved consent decree, the school district agreed to stop these unconstitutional practices.
In addition to protecting students’ religious liberty, schools also have an obligation to uphold the free speech rights of students and avoid discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color or national origin.
Students, parents and educators can refer to the ACLU of Louisiana’s Students’ Rights Handbook for more information about these legal protections.
The letter to school leaders is at: https://www.laaclu.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/20190809_students_rights_letter_aclu_la.pdf
More information about students’ rights can be found at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/students-rights/