NCAC has written to officials at Eastport-South Manor Central School District in Manorville, New York, to urge the District to create a means by which students can express their views on controversial issues after a recent controversy related to a student’s art project.

In 2021, the District permitted a student at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School to paint a mural on school grounds which depicts a raised fist. Other students interpreted the mural as an expression of a student’s views on controversial political and social issues. When another student with differing views on those issues requested permission to display artwork, the District refused that request.

The District does not believe that it is legally obligated to provide a forum for those who oppose the views expressed by the mural. Regardless of the validity of that interpretation of the law, it seems clear that it is in no one’s interest for the District to be perceived as favoring the political or social views of some students over the views of others. As the Supreme Court stated just last year, “the school itself has an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression,” and “schools have a strong interest in ensuring that future generations understand the workings in practice of the well-known aphorism, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’” (Mahanoy Area School District v. B. L.)

NCAC suggests that the District should provide a dedicated avenue for students to express viewpoints opposing those of the school or of students whose speech is endorsed by the school. Providing such an avenue, such as a bulletin board or a free speech wall, would be consistent with the District’s stated goal to “provide an environment in which students can learn personal and civic responsibility for their actions through meaningful experiences as school citizens.”

NCAC’s letter to the District is below. Click here for a full screen view: