Some Proposed Punishments for Student Walkout Protests Are Illegal

ACLU of Nevada Sends Letters Warning School Districts Statewide

Affiliate: ACLU of Nevada
March 9, 2018 10:45 am

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada on Thursday sent letters to school districts across the state after receiving complaints from students that schools were threatening excessive punishments for any students who participate in next week’s walkouts protesting gun violence.

Many school leaders have embraced this moment in history as an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson in civics and have been working with students to develop heartfelt, creative activities that honor the constitutional rights of students without interfering with the school’s duty to educate and protect students.

But students from rural and urban districts have reported to us that school administrators have threatened to ban students from participating in school sports, to withhold students’ honor diplomas, or to suspend students who protest gun violence.

The ACLU of Nevada takes these allegations seriously and will investigate each incident of excessive punishment reported to our office.

First Amendment case law is clear: students do not shed their right to free speech when they walk into school. And punishing a student more for an absence associated with protest activity than for any other absence is viewpoint discrimination.

ACLU of Nevada Policy Director Holly Welborn writes in the letter:

“We Nevadans know all too well the pain and trauma of a mass shooting, and as students across the country mobilize to force change in the wake of the Parkland, FL tragedy, the issue of free speech in schools is once again at the forefront of American dialogue. …

“Given the possibility of walkout protests at Nevada schools, we find it imperative to remind school administrators of the rights students are entitled to in school and the limits on punishments a school may utilize when a student engages in protest activity.”

Students can learn more about their rights regarding walkouts and political speech in Nevada schools on our website at

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