Miami High School Senior is Among 12 Winners of ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
May 23, 2001 12:00 am

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MIAMI – – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today announced that Daniel Palugyai of Palmetto High School is one of 12 seniors nationwide to be awarded a $4,000 college scholarship in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the struggle to defend civil liberties.

threat of disciplinary action, shows that he is truly a committed civil libertarian devoted to fighting for the rights of his peers,” said Howard L. Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “We’re extremely proud of him.”

As founder of his school’s Young Democrats club, Daniel courageously led students in a battle to receive equal treatment as a student club from school officials. When Palmetto High School officials last Fall denied the club official school-sponsored status on the pretense that it is political in nature, Daniel challenged school administrators to explain their policy.

Even with the school’s ban on sponsorship of political clubs, school chapters for the National Organization for Women and the Gay-Straight Alliance were granted official sponsorship. Clubs with official school-sponsored status at Palmetto are afforded opportunities that non-official clubs aren’t, such as participation in school events, collection of dues from members and special rates on yearbook photos.

Daniel’s inquiries as to why the Young Democrats club was denied official status was met with evasions and threats of discipline.

After studying the Federal Equal Access Act, which ensures that all clubs, even those with unpopular messages, have the right to meet on school premises, Daniel drafted a two-page letter to his school principal, arguing that the school’s discriminatory policies were in violation of federal law.

“We feel that these tactics discourage and ultimately threaten the right of every student in public high school to be politically involved,” Daniel said in his letter.

When Daniel’s letter went unanswered, he sought help from the ACLU of Florida. Although Palmetto High has yet to change or explain its policy, it has agreed to reconsider the restrictions on political clubs during the next school year.

Daniel, who has received a full four year scholarship to the University of Miami, wants to become an attorney and eventually a politician.

“”I have been privileged all my life in every aspect,”” said Daniel. “”As a lawyer and politician I hope to make economic opportunity and social equality available to all.””

While earning top grades at his school, Daniel also volunteered his time to work on ACLU projects, educated his peers about their rights, served as president of his school’s Mock Trial Club and Vice President of the Law Club.

In addition to Daniel, this year’s other recipients hail from California, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Many of the students selected stood up for the rights of their peers by challenging the injustices inflicted upon them by school officials; created an ACLU chapter at their school; or interned at the ACLU affiliate office in their state. In 2000, the first year of the program, the ACLU awarded scholarships to eight high school seniors.

“”The ACLU’s College Scholarship for Youth Activism Award gives us an opportunity to recognize the courage of students like Daniel and the example they set for their peers,”” said Nadine Strossen, President of the National ACLU. “”It truly is an honor to be able to provide these intelligent, resourceful and committed young people with support for their education.””

To learn about the other winners, please visit our web feature at

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