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School apologises for illegally banning student’s presentation on gay rights activist

Jessica Geen June 12, 2009
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A California school which illegally censored a sixth-grade student’s presentation of gay rights activist Harvey Milk has been forced to apologise.

Mt Woodson Elementary School barred Natalie Jones from showing her presentation in class, saying the move was due to a policy which required students to have written parental permission for classes on human sexuality.

Instead, she was told she would have to show it during lunch break and only students with parental permission were allowed to attend.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which handled the case on the student’s behalf, said the school violated her rights to free speech and threatened a lawsuit.

The school has now responded to the ACLU’s demands by sending Natalie a written apology and making parents aware of the apology.

The ACLU added that the student should be allowed an opportunity to give her presentation to all the other members of her independent research project class and that the school should clarify in writing its policy on what is sex education and what is not.

“If the school had taken a moment to consider its legal obligation to respect and uphold its students’ free speech rights instead of jumping to erroneous conclusions and trying to justify its actions by wrongly conflating Natalie’s historical presentation with sex education, this would never have happened,” said Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU national LGBT Project.

“There’s a tremendous difference between sex education and writing or talking about someone who happens to be gay, and we’re glad we were able to help the school finally understand that.”

Natalie said: “Harvey Milk always stood up for his beliefs and what was right, so I felt like I should do the same thing when my school told me they wouldn’t let me do my presentation.

“I worked really hard on my presentation and I’m glad I’m finally going to get to share it with all of my classmates like everyone else got to.”

Natalie’s mother Bonnie Jones, said: “I’m always proud of my daughter, of course, but I’m even more proud of her for the way she stood up for her rights.

“We’ve also heard from many people in town and other parents at Natalie’s school who have been amazingly supportive. I think if Harvey Milk were still here today, he’d be happy about how this all worked out.”

More: Americas

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