ACLU of Georgia

Press Release: ACLU of Georgia Urges School to Issue Apology for Forcing Students to Walk Out of Class on March 14


Media contact: Ana Maria Rosato

ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia has sent a letter to the Bartow County School System Superintendent and Cass High School Principal regarding a report that the school forced students to participate in the March 14 National School Walkout.

According to the report, the entire school was instructed to exit their classrooms and stay in the hallways for several minutes to observe a moment of silence. 
Over 75 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”  “Compulsory unification of opinion” is anathema to the First Amendment.
“Schools are free to encourage students to debate the response to any tragedy such as the Parkland shootings,” stated Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “However, compelling students to engage in any kind of required collective speech – be it verbal or symbolic – violates the students’ free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution. We urge the school to apologize to its students.” 
In its letter, the ACLU of Georgia stated, “It makes no difference that students were not technically required to utter specific words, because the ritual of walking out of the classroom to observe a moment of silence on March 14 was inextricably intertwined with a widely-known message.” 
Several weeks ago, the ACLU of Georgia intervened on behalf of a student who was disproportionately punished with five days’ suspension for walking out of class to protest the Parkland shootings.