AUSD Responds to ACLU
District assures it allows free speech
The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) recently reassured parents that the district has not placed a ban on student protected free speech.
AUSD released a statement responding to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) inquiry expressing concerns that the district might be preventing students at Maya Lin Elementary School from wearing T-shirts or holding signs and stickers with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on them.
“AUSD honors our students’ First Amendment right to engage in political speech,” read a statement on the district website. “As such, students on our campuses have been wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and stickers, creating Black Lives Matter artwork, and supporting Black Lives Matter as a movement for some time.”
A member of the ACLU wrote to AUSD Superintendent Sean McPhetridge concerned that school officials were violating free speech laws by confiscating “Black Lives Matter” stickers at Maya Lin.
“It is our understanding that on Sept. 7, 2017, district staff removed Black Lives Matter signs and possibly stickers from a common area at Maya Lin Elementary School,” wrote ACLU Northern California attorney Abré Conner in the letter. “This refusal, if correct, poses unlawful restrictions on student speech in violation of § 48907 and § 48950 of the California Education Code, Article I, § 2(a) of the California Constitution as well as the First Amendment.”
The district said students are allowed to wear T-shirts or hold signs with political messages, however, it is against district rules for outside groups or community members to distribute materials, political-based or not, on district property.
“This policy exists because, as a government agency, we cannot pick and choose among various causes to support. In other words, if we allow one group to use our facilities for publicizing their cause, we have to allow all groups to use our facilities to publicize their cause.”
This policy has been in place since 2009, according to the statement.
The statement stems from an incident at the school that took place in September. On Sept. 5, a piece of artwork at Maya Lin School with “Black Lives Matter” written on it was vandalized to read “All Lives Matter.” This prompted someone to pass out “Black Lives Matter” stickers at a back-to-school event at the school on Sept. 6.
McPhetridge said he learned about the issue from a parent whose child had picked up a “Black Lives Matter” sticker, which the family “did not appreciate and did not solicit,” from a table at the school.
Parents at Maya Lin were told that signs or T-shirts would only be permitted on campus if they were created by the student.
“We hope this clarification helps to reassure all community members that the “ban” reported by the ACLU does not exist,” the statement read.