ACLU Of Iowa Cautions School Boards Not To Restrict Students’ Free Speech Rights

Des Moines, Iowa — The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has sent Atlantic’s school board a letter, saying it would be unconstitutional to prohibit student protests at school.

During the school board’s meeting in May, LeAnne Pellett of Atlantic said she represented 30 residents who were upset by a March protest at the school over LGBTQ-related bills in the legislature.

Pellet called on the school board to adopt a new policy.

Thomas Story, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Iowa, says that the suggested policy would clearly violate students’ constitutional rights.

Story cites a 1969 US Supreme Court ruling that says students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. The case involved a group of Des Moines students who were suspended from school for protesting the Vietnam War. There were student walk-outs in several Iowa school districts earlier this year, led by students protesting bills in the legislature. Story says it’s likely other school boards are hearing similar proposals to Pellett’s.

According to the ACLU, Iowa law only lets schools limit or punish students for their speech or expression at school if it encourages illegal activities, interferes with other students’ rights, or substantially disrupts school activities.