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ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sent a letter to New Mexico school district superintendents urging them to do as the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education did, and commit to supporting students and staff in a nation-wide walkout scheduled for March 14, 2018. On this day, students will walk out of their schools for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. to honor each of the students who were massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and to send a strong message about the urgent need for gun control.

“Students are experiencing anguish and fear as a result of mounting gun violence in schools across the nation. Superintendents should take those feelings seriously,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director at the ACLU of New Mexico. “Our nation’s young people have turned a heartbreaking tragedy into an inspiring push for much needed change and we admire them for their civic action.”

In the letter, the ACLU reminds superintendents that:

  • Students cannot be punished for expressing their beliefs unless it disrupts the operation of the school or the substance is lewd or vulgar; and
  • The U.S. and New Mexico Constitutions forbid disciplining students more harshly for politically motivated conduct than for similar, non-political behavior; and
  • The ACLU of New Mexico may intervene if a student who leaves school as an act of political protest faces more severe punishment than a classmate would for missing class for any other reason.

“We hope school administrators embrace this moment as an opportunity to teach our students about civic engagement,” said Leon Howard, Legal Director at the ACLU of New Mexico.  “Student protests played an integral role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and in ending the Vietnam War. We encourage students to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights to turn the tides of injustice whenever possible.”

The letter closes by reminding school district leaders of the importance of “fostering civil participation in the next generation,” and encouraging them to “ensure that our students feel supported when they make public expressions to demand justice.”

A full copy of the letter can be found below.