ACLU Urges Respect for Students' Rights Ahead of Walkout

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) urged school districts across the state to respect students’ First Amendment rights in anticipation of a national walkout planned for Wednesday.

Student walkouts are planned across the country Wednesday to protest gun violence. The day marks the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Students will walk out of class at 10 a.m. and stay out of class for 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

ACLU-TN sent a letter to every school district in the state this week calling on school directors to uphold the students’ right to protest.
"Students don't lose their right to free speech when they walk in the door to their schools, and we will be monitoring to ensure that students' First Amendment rights are protected during tomorrow's walkouts," said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. "We applaud those school administrators who have already taken steps to protect their students' First Amendment rights and to ensure that students can exercise their right to protest safely."

Students cannot be punished, Weinberg said in the letter, for wearing shirts, armbands, or clothes that proclaim political viewpoints. They can only be punished, she said, if their behavior ”disrupts school functioning or the substance is lewd or vulgar."
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The Enough National School Walkout has been organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, a collection of teenage activist from across the country. The group has planned another school walkout on March 20 and has planned a march on Washington on March 24.

Disruption may not be a problem in Memphis Wednesday, however. No walkouts in Memphis have been registered with the group. Though, not every walkout must be registered with them.

The closest registered walkout is planned for DeSoto County.


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