According to its website, “The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.” The nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU works on numerous civil, political, and human rights issues, including capital punishment, drug law reform, free speech, HIV/AIDS, prisoners’ rights, racial justice, reproductive freedom, voting rights, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) rights, immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and privacy rights. The organization has more than 500,000 members and supporters, with staffed offices in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The ACLU has participated in more U.S. Supreme Court cases than any other private organization, and claims to win more than it loses.
In regard to school crime and violence, the ACLU has often been a leader in protesting unconstitutional practices that are harmful to students. Its members have conducted a thorough examination of corporal punishment and published a report on why it should be prohibited (http://www.aclu.org/human-rights/corporal-punishment-children). The ACLU often backs students in cases where they believe school authorities overstep their bounds or unfairly deny students the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. For instance, the ACLU became involved when two Indiana high school girls were punished for posting sexually suggestive pictures of themselves on MySpace, an act that had nothing to do with the school. They assisted the plaintiff in contesting unconstitutional school-based strip searches in the case of Savannah Redding, a 15-year-old who was strip-searched based on allegations that she had ibuprofen she had not checked in at the school office. The ACLU also advocates for safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gendered, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Zero-tolerance laws, which require students be suspended or expelled for certain violations (typically having weapons or drugs on campus, among other things), have been challenged by a number of groups, but the ACLU has been one of the most active and has long noted these laws’ disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities.
At the college level, the ACLU has been active in addressing hate crimes on campus while maintaining support for freedom of speech and academic freedom. It helped address homophobia, for instance, when its members investigated and recommended the reprimand of a Fresno State College health sciences instructor who insulted gays and lesbians and used the Bible in class as justification for those acts. Further, the ACLU has defended students’ right to nonviolently protest campus policies.
Persons seeking information about the ACLU’s work, needing assistance, or wishing to get involved can find information about local affiliates on the organization’s website (www.aclu.org).
- ACLU: http://www.aclu.org/
- Schmidt, P. (2010, April 2). Fresno City College moves to reprimand instructor whodrewACLUcomplaint. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://jobs.chronicle.com/article/Fresno-City-College-Moves-to/64967/