ACLU, students win | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

ACLU, students win

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 4:49 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the Watson Chapel School District over its disciplining of students who wore armbands in protest of the school's dress code. From the ACLU press release:

“This was a predictable outcome, as it has been clear from the outset that suspending students simply for expressing their opinion is a violation of their constitutional rights,” said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, which sued WCSD in 2006 on behalf of three of the students who were suspended for wearing the wristbands. “The Watson Chapel School District is not exempt from having to comply with the First Amendment, and the students in this case deserve a lot of credit for having the courage to stand up for what is right.”


Press release is on the jump.


Supreme Court of United States Sides with

ACLU and Students on Free Speech

High Court refuses to hear appeal of Watson Chapel School District


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2009


LITTLE ROCK— The U.S. Supreme Court this week chose to leave in place two judicial rulings that Watson Chapel School District (WCSD) officials violated the law by disciplining students for wearing black armbands to protest the district’s dress code.


Monday’s refusal by the Supreme Court to hear a WCSD appeal of the two rulings effectively upholds decisions by both a federal district court judge and the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that school officials violated students’ free speech rights by suspending them for wearing the armbands to silently oppose the district’s policy requiring them to wear uniforms to school.


“This was a predictable outcome, as it has been clear from the outset that suspending students simply for expressing their opinion is a violation of their constitutional rights,” said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, which sued WCSD in 2006 on behalf of three of the students who were suspended for wearing the wristbands. “The Watson Chapel School District is not exempt from having to comply with the First Amendment, and the students in this case deserve a lot of credit for having the courage to stand up for what is right.”


The ACLU of Arkansas filed its lawsuit after hundreds of students who wore the armbands to school in protest of what they said was a restrictive, unclear and arbitrarily enforced dress code policy were subjected to various levels of harassment and discipline by school officials. Many of the students were ordered to throw the arm bands away, some were issued written disciplines and others were suspended from school. School officials even forced a group of junior high school students into a library guarded by an armed police officer until their disciplines were processed by school officials.


A federal district court judge ruled in 2006 that the school must permit the wearing of the armbands pending trial and, in 2007 the judge ruled that the students were well within their rights to wear the armbands and that district and school officials had violated their free speech rights by disciplining them for doing so.


WCSD appealed the ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the district court decision in XXX by drawing a comparison to the landmark 1969 students’ free speech case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that students engaging in symbolic speech and political expression by wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam War were protected under the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution


“Parents and students contacted us in a panic when officials announced they would discipline students for wearing armbands,” said ACLU of Arkansas staff attorney Holly Dickson. “We contacted the district's lawyer to ask them not to suspend students for this because it would violate their rights, but they suspended them anyway. The district’s insistence on taking this to the Supreme Court only served to clarify that these students had an absolute right to express themselves.”


At issue earlier in the suit but not on appeal was the constitutionality of the school's apparel policy. The federal district court ruled that it was constitutional, however a state law which was not at issue in the federal case requires districts who passed uniform policies subsequent to the 1999 state law to allow individual students to make application to opt out of the uniform requirements with parental consent where no other reasonable alternative placement for the student exists. The district had a uniform policy when state law passed in 1999, but the dress code has since been dramatically amended. Dickson noted that after the initial ruling in the case in 2006 requiring officials to permit armbands, district officials' enforcement of the policy relaxed considerably, though they refused to admit they'd wrongfully punished students for apparel violations or armband violations.


“We've always believed in Colton,” said Frank Dougan, father of student plaintiff Colton Dougan, when told of Monday's decision. “Families could not keep buying pair after perfectly good pair of pants so that their kids could go to school. Colton saw this as wrong, and he was willing to risk a suspension to stand up for what he believed in. We're very proud of him and all the other students who had the courage to stand up for what they knew was right.”

Sign up for the Daily Update email
Favorite

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • High spirits at Rock Town

    The alcohol will really flow this weekend. In addition to the Great Arkansas Beer Festival and Queers & Beers, Rock Town Distillery gets in the spirit by celebrating its eighth anniversary with a grand opening of its new building in SoMa, at 1201 Main St.
    • Jun 22, 2018
  • Have yourself a beery little weekend, with GARBF, Beers & Queers

    A sudsy weekend in the river cities kicks off Saturday, June 23, at the Statehouse Convention Center with the Great Arkansas Beer Festival, at 4:30 p.m. (for V.I.P. ticketholders) and 5:30 p.m. for the hoi polloi. Then on Sunday, June 24, Argenta celebrates National Pride Day with Beers & Queers, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of Flyway Brewing in Argenta.
    • Jun 22, 2018
  • Digital kiosk to be unveiled Monday

    Mayor Mark Stodola will unveil on Monday a new digital engagement kiosk outside the Statehouse Convention Center that will provide a touchscreen for wayfinding, transit, weather, shopping and other advertisements and act as a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
    • Jun 22, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas Supreme Court refuses to rehear invalidation of marijuana act

    The Arkansas Supreme Court today denied a request to rehear its decision invalidating Issue 7, the medical marijuana initiated act.
    • Nov 3, 2016
  • Former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel applauds Trump's EPA choice of climate change denier Scott Pruitt

    Dustin McDaniel gives the thumbs up to a man set to dismantle EPA regulations.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017

Most Viewed

  • Proposed child holding site in Arkansas 5 miles from WWII Japanese-American internment camp

    One big difference between Rohwer and today: The parents kept at Rohwer in World War II weren't separated from their children.
  • Baby gorilla born at zoo

    The Little Rock Zoo has a happy announcement: The birth of a healthy baby gorilla. The baby, whose sex has not been determined, was born to Sekani, who came to the zoo in 2004 from Toronto; her baby is her third. The father of the baby is a silverback, Kivu, and he is being "very attentive" to his first child, the zoo reports. Kivu came to the zoo in 2016 from Santa Barbara.
  • LR woman sues Louisville police over failures in rape investigation

    Salisa Luster Harrison, who now lives in Little Rock, Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in Louisville, Ky., alleging multiple failures by the Louisville police investigating a sexual assault of her more than 10 years ago.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: TGIF video and open line

    • P.S. Contrast Elvis with Pat Boone, who took the black man's music, sanitized it, gutted…

    • on June 22, 2018
  • Re: TGIF video and open line

    • Mr. Phart. Elvis stole the black man's music because he admired it so much. He…

    • on June 22, 2018
  • Re: TGIF video and open line

    • If my check clears and I get the miracle I paid oral Roberts for I…

    • on June 22, 2018

Slideshows

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation