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September 9, 2019

Today, the ACLU of Virginia sent a letter to public school superintendents across the Commonwealth to remind school officials of their responsibility to protect all students' rights. The letter sought to raise awareness of the key issues affecting Virginia's students and the rights provided to them under state and federal law, so as to help school officials avoid any potential legal challenges and help foster a positive learning environment where all students can thrive.

"Children enrolled in schools are afforded safeguards under the law that protect them from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability," stated the letter. "Schools are responsible for ensuring these rights are protected and for promoting a safe school atmosphere. Additionally, schools are responsible for ensuring that students’ right to free speech is respected and that the freedom to practice their religion—or no religion at all— is upheld."

The letter provided an overview of students' rights and freedoms on the following topics:

  • student speech rights;

  • the Pledge of Allegiance;

  • censorship;

  • religious beliefs and accommodations;

  • the rights of students who identify as LGBT;

  • discipline and arrests;

  • the rights of students with disabilities;

  • the rights of students who are immigrants;

  • the rights of students who are homeless; and

  • the rights of students who are pregnant.

The ACLU of Virginia hopes this letter will give school officials a firm understanding of the rights of students in schools and suggestions for ways to ensure student rights are protected while providing a safe and supportive environment for all students. 

You can read the full letter in the attachment below.