breaking news

Medical helicopter requested to rollover crash on U.S. 68 in Clark County

ACLU warns Ohio schools: We’re watching how you handle student protests

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio issued an open letter to school administrators ahead of the student protests and walkouts expected across the nation Wednesday after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The ACLU’s message was clear: We’re watching how schools handle these protests.

The full letter appears at the bottom of this story.

“As students plan walkouts to press for changes in social policy, please bear firmly in mind: The Constitution forbids disciplining students more harshly for politically motivated conduct,” ACLU of Ohio Executive Director J. Bennett Guess wrote. “The ACLU of Ohio may intervene if a student who leaves school as an act of political protest faces more severe punishment because of their political beliefs.”


» Can students get in trouble for #NeverAgain school walkouts?

» Hundreds of local students walk out, more planned

At schools across the state — including here in southwest Ohio — students have organized walkouts with a variety of intentions, all sparked by the slaughter of 17 people at the Parlkand, Fla., high school.

Some of the walkouts are geared expressly toward more strict gun control, while others are aimed at memorializing the dead in as non-political a manner as possible.

In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” but also recognized the need to prevent substantial disruption to the educational process.

Earlier this month, the Dayton Daily News used Ohio’s public records law to reveal how area superintendents debated whether or not students should be punished for walkouts.

Troy Superintendent Eric Herman said he would not punish Troy students who participate peacefully in walkouts, instead telling school principals not to physically stop the students and “escort them out if need be — supervise them — and return them into the buildings.”

» Emails show local schools wrestling with student protests after Florida shooting

Other schools decided discipline would need to be enforced should students choose to walk out. Miami Valley Career Technology Center Superintendent Nick Weldy told the Daily News he decided the district would enforce discipline measures.

The ACLU letter encourages school officials to “choose their most appropriate response to student activism.”

“This is why we are asking that, instead of focusing on discipline and punishment, school officials should seize this as a teachable moment by nurturing students’ commitment to social action by removing barriers to their participation,” Guess wrote, later adding, “Public schools are essential in educating young people about democracy, and that includes their role in enacting it.”

Read more coverage of school safety issues:

» Fairborn police: Schools won’t release records about arrested 12-year-old

» After school threats, Dayton-area children face next step: Court

Reader Comments

Next Up in Politics

Ohio lawmakers vote to ban late-term abortion procedure
Ohio lawmakers vote to ban late-term abortion procedure

The Ohio House on Thursday voted 62-27 to outlaw abortions performed by dilation and evacuation, a procedure commonly used to terminate pregnancies between 13 and 24 weeks gestation. Senators quickly agreed to House changes, setting up the bill to be delivered to Gov. John Kasich for consideration. In 2017, 3,441 D&E abortions were performed in Ohio...
Ohio Gov.-Elect Mike DeWine meets with President Donald Trump
Ohio Gov.-Elect Mike DeWine meets with President Donald Trump

Joining 12 other newly elected governors at the White House Thursday, Gov.-elect Mike DeWine said President Donald Trump “listened very carefully and was very engaging” as they talked about constructing new roads and bridges, combating drugs, and keeping Lake Erie clean. “There wasn’t much contention in there,” DeWine...
Ohio lawmakers vote to give themselves a pay raise
Ohio lawmakers vote to give themselves a pay raise

Ohio lawmakers, the governor and other elected leaders would be in line for a pay raise under a bill approved by the Ohio House on Thursday. The bill still needs to be signed by Gov. John Kasich to be come law but the governor expressed distaste for the pay raises, especially since they are coming during the lame duck session. On Thursday, the governor...
President Donald Trump issues challenge to John Kasich to run in 2020
President Donald Trump issues challenge to John Kasich to run in 2020

When asked if other Republicans such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich should challenge him in a primary in 2020, President Donald Trump on Thursday said, “I hope so.” During a Fox News interview with Harris Faulkner, the president was asked about a challenge from Kasich or retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. Kasich strategist John Weaver sent a short...
Ohio may set up database for violent offenders
Ohio may set up database for violent offenders

Ohio lawmakers have approved the creation of a statewide database of violent offenders under legislation named for a college student who disappeared while bicycling and was abducted and slain. The bill named for Sierah Joughin and known as “Sierah’s Law” was approved recently and will take effect if it is signed by Republican Gov...
More Stories