The National Coalition Against Censorship has written to a Ardmore City Schools in Oklahoma after learning that the district had forbidden students from wearing Black Lives Matter apparel in school. Media reports suggest that the superintendent told a parent that “politics will not be allowed at school.” However, as established in Tinker v Des Moines (1969), students’ political speech is protected by the First Amendment.
According to reports, students were required to turn their Black Lives Matter shirts inside out and not allowed to attend class unless they changed their clothes.
Students have the right to make political statements on school grounds, including the wearing of political messages on clothing, as long as they don’t substantially disrupt the activities of the school. That “substantially” is crucial to protecting students’ rights to express their opinions.
NCAC encourages Ardmore City Schools to reexamine its commitment to supporting its students in becoming citizens who engage in respectful civic discourse. It is true that expressing political views anywhere, including at school, can cause disputes between those who disagree. But Oklahoma state education standards call for students to become effective listeners and communicators; to demonstrate an understanding of the virtues that citizens should use when interacting with each other; and, more generally, to exhibit traits of good citizenship. NCAC is urging the district to clarify for its students that they have the right to express their views, and to disagree with others’ views, in any manner that does not substantially disrupt school.
Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view: