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CA school bans child's Harvey Milk presentation
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CA school bans child's Harvey Milk presentation
Wrongly citing a school policy on sex education, a California school illegally censored a sixth-grader's classroom presentation about Harvey Milk earlier this month. According to a demand letter sent by the American Civil Liberties Union to the Ramona Unified School District today, the school violated Natalie Jones' free speech rights when it refused to allow her to give the presentation in class. Instead, the school improperly required classmates to get parental permission to see the presentation during a lunch recess.

"This whole thing is unbelievable - first my daughter got called into the principal's office as if she were in some kind of trouble, and then they treated her presentation like it was something icky," said Bonnie Jones, mother of the Mt. Woodson Elementary School student. "Harvey Milk was an elected official in this state and an important person in history. To say my daughter's presentation is 'sex education' because Harvey Milk happened to be Gay is completely wrong."

The assignment, part of an independent research project class, was originally to prepare a written report on any topic. Natalie Jones, who was inspired to write about Harvey Milk after watching Sean Penn win an Academy Award for portraying him, got a score of 49 out of a possible 50 points on the written report. Students were then told to make PowerPoint presentations about their reports, which they would show to other students in the class. The day before Natalie was to give her 12-page presentation, she was called into the principal's office and told she couldn't do so.

When Bonnie Jones spoke with the superintendent about the presentation, he said Natalie couldn't give her presentation because of a district board policy on "Family Life/Sex Education." A few days later, the school sent letters to parents of students in the class, explaining that her presentation would be held during a lunch recess on May 8, and that students could only attend if they had parental permission.

"The principal and superintendent grossly misinterpreted school policy. They illegally censored student speech protected by the First Amendment and the California Education Code," said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "Writing or talking about a Gay historical figure who advocated for equal rights for LGBT Californians is in no way the same thing as talking about sex, and school officials should not pretend otherwise."

For additional information, including copies of Natalie Jones's presentation on Harvey Milk, the school's letter to parents, and the Ramona U.S.D. "Family Life/Sex Education" policy, visit http://www.aclu.org/Milk.

Courtesy of the ACLU
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