ACLU speaks out about Baltimore City students' right to protest
December 14, 2015
The following statement can be attributed to Susan Goering, Executive Director, ACLU of Maryland:
"The letter sent today by the Baltimore City School System to parents, students, and community members regarding potential protests related to the trials of officers charged the death of Freddie Gray misses an opportunity to constructively engage with students. The school system's letter assumes that students would engage in violent acts, assumes that students only want to express their emotions, not rational views about the conduct of police and lack of accountability, and it misses an opportunity to affirmatively engage students who want to be politically engaged on these issues.
Baltimore City is experiencing a historic moment. Yet the school system's letter creates a sense that the school leadership does not want students to talk about the issues raised by Freddie Gray's death or how the justice system is addressing it. The school system's letter could instead foster constructive conversation about those issues as part of students' civic education.
Students have a First Amendment right to state their opinion and organize in the community. Participating in a walk-out from school is a form of peaceful civil disobedience, and should be handled by schools as any other unexcused absence is addressed. And if students engage in violent acts or vandalism outside of school, they face criminal sanctions, like any other person. But students cannot be punished in school for actions that take place out of school, absent some nexus to school activities or in school consequences. The school system's letter ignores these rules, and could result in, and seems to be having the effect of, chilling legitimate, peaceful protest activity."