Tecumseh, Oklahoma High School Senior is Among 12 Winners of ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism

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

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OKLAHOMA CITY – – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma today announced that Lindsay Earls of Tecumseh High School is one of 12 seniors nationwide to be awarded a $4,000 college scholarship in recognition of her exceptional contributions to the struggle to defend civil liberties.

In her challenge to Tecumseh’s unconstitutional drug-testing policy, Ms. Earls withstood blatant hostility and humiliation in her small, highly conservative rural community simply for standing up for what she believed.

“”In the fight to preserve all Americans’ privacy from creeping governmental intrusion, Lindsay is truly a hero, not only among students but among us all,”” said Graham Boyd, Counsel for the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project. “”Lindsay showed unflagging determination to stand up for her rights, even in the face of certain hostility and ridicule from classmates. This case could not have gone forward without Lindsay’s personal courage and commitment.””

According to the ACLU lawsuit, filed in August 1999, students at Ms. Earls’ school who wanted to participate in any extracurricular activities had to first pass a drug test. Many of the students at Ms. Earls’ school were to afraid to “”rock the boat”” as Earls puts it, or believed that going along with the new policy was the “”Christian thing to do.”” Ms. Earls’ bravery led her to question the legality of the policy and eventually sue her school district.

“When I first learned about the school board’s decision to institute a drug-testing policy, I thought, ‘Wait a second! Can they do that?'” said Ms. Earls, who will be attending Dartmouth University in the Fall. “”I knew that if I didn’t stand up to the school board, kids would become less sensitive about losing their rights. I knew I had to do this.””

While earning top grades at her school, Ms. Earls spent many hours working with ACLU lawyers and conducting interviews with the media. She has been central to getting the ACLU’s message featured in the New York Times, Teen People, on Good Morning America, National Public Radio, and countless other media outlets.

Although Ms. Earls and the ACLU eventually won the lawsuit last March, an initial decision from an Oklahoma judge was in favor of the Tecumseh School Board. With the support of the ACLU she pushed forward and won her case on appeal.

“”Deciding to appeal was the hardest decision I have ever made,”” said Ms. Earls. “”I didn’t know if fighting for kids who would probably never know what I had done was worth the heartache I have gone through. Yet, I will always be glad that I did decide to appeal. Having lived standing, I cannot imagine trying to live on my knees again.””

In addition to Ms. Earls, this year’s other recipients hail from California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, 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 Ms. Earls 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 http://archive.aclu.org/features/f052301a.html.

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