Arkansas Students Can Wear Armbands as Form of Protest, Federal Judge Rules

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
October 19, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU of Arkansas Wins Temporary Injunction in Student Free Speech Case

PINE BLUFF, AR — In a victory for students’ free speech rights, federal Judge Leon Holmes ruled that students may wear black armbands to protest the restrictive uniform policy imposed by the Watson Chapel School District. The decision comes in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas charging that the school district violated the Constitution by suspending and punishing students who wore the armbands to school during a day of protest.

Judge Holmes issued a preliminary order blocking the school district from punishing students who wear the black armbands to school. The temporary order will be in effect until a final decision is reached in this case. A date has not yet been set for trial.

School officials and the parents and students in this case agreed that for now the armbands would only be worn on the wrist.

“We’re happy these students are going to be allowed to communicate their message whether it’s on their wrist or their biceps or their elbow,” said Holly Dickson, an ACLU of Arkansas staff attorney.

Students planned to wear the black armbands, which are about a quarter-inch wide with no writing, to school on Friday, October 6 to silently protest the uniform policy. After reports of the plan appeared in the media, school officials announced that students wearing the armbands would be suspended from school for three days. Several students wore the bands anyway and more than 30 elementary, junior high and high school students were disciplined and forced to remove the bands. Sixteen junior high school students and four high school students received suspensions.

The lawsuit was filed on October 10, 2006. More information, including legal documents, is available at:

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