The National Coalition Against Censorship has written to the Superintendent of Foster-Glocester Regional School District in Glocester, Rhode Island, after students at Ponaganset High School were silenced for expressing their personal views.
The students in question, according to The Providence Journal, brought “anti-tolerant” flags to school following a Pride Month celebration. It is unclear if the students faced disciplinary action, but the district indicated that the students were immediately called in to meet with administrators regarding this “concerning behavior” which symbolizes culture that is “against the core values of the district.”
School officials restricting students’ ability to express personal views raises serious First Amendment concerns, even when those views go against school policy. That is the very nature of protest. The Supreme Court declared in its landmark decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), that school officials may not forbid students from expressing ideas that they dislike unless they substantially disrupt school activities.
The First Amendment does not only protect popular speech. In fact, it is most necessary to protect speech which is unpopular. NCAC urges the district to apologize to these students and rescind any punishments that may have been issued to them. NCAC further urges the district to instruct school employees not to obstruct lawful protests and to take steps to ensure that the free speech rights of its students are respected in the future.
Read our full letter to the Superintendent below.