ACLU responds to censoring of student speech
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2014
LINCOLN – Today the ACLU of Nebraska informed the Nebraska School Activities Association that they must respect the free speech rights of students. Michael Barth, a student in Gordon, won the Class C1 poetry division at the NSAA competition in Kearney last weekend. The ACLU has learned that NSAA deemed the content of the speech to be inappropriate and controversial. In a letter sent today, the NSAA was informed that they are violating the free speech rights of the student. The ACLU asserts that the NSAA's policy on student speech is unconstitutionally vague and that censoring this particular speech on any grounds is unconstitutional.
The NSAA's policy instructs school officials to censor free speech so it does not "offend the moral standards of the community."
Statement from Amy Miller, Legal Director
There is no question here. Michael Barth and other Nebraska students have free speech rights and the Nebraska School Activities Association cannot disregard one of our most sacred values. We have informed the NSAA that they are obligated by our constitution to allow students to present speeches without censorship. The NSAA does not get to determine what will "offend...moral standards" and certainly does not have the ability to use that as grounds for altering a speech.
Claiming that this particular speech advances a political agenda is particularly troubling. The lives of gay and transgender people should be able to be discussed without being labeled as a political agenda. If we receive complaints from students, including Michael Barth, that have been impacted by the NSAA's unconstitutional policy, we will consider legal action to ensure the NSAA respects free speech of students.
We hope that the NSAA will allow Michael Barth to present his speech as he intended and abandon their unconstitutional policy that limits free speech.
For a copy of the letter: http://www.aclunebraska.org/images/attachments/196_NSAA%20free%20speech%20letter.pdf