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Student and Youth Rights

The ACLU works to ensure that constitutional protections are extended to young people and students. 

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) is criticizing North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory for opposing a Virginia transgender male student’s challenge to his high school’s discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers. Gov. McCrory has said he will sign on to a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, that is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 

“It’s shameful that Gov. McCrory has gone out of his way to launch a mean-spirited political attack on such vulnerable students,” said Sarah Preston, the ACLU-NC’s acting Executive Director. “Students who are transgender should be treated with respect and compassion – not discriminated against because of who they are. The ACLU stands up for the rights of all students to be free from discrimination, and we urge Gov. McCrory to rethink his misguided political attack on transgender youth.”     

In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board for adopting a discriminatory bathroom policy that effectively expels trans students from communal restrooms and requires them to use “alternative private” restroom facilities

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LAKE LURE, N.C. – Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) should promptly rescind its ban on all student-led noncurricular groups, including an LGBTQ+ student organization that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students, according to a letter sent today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF)  to school officials.

At its November 12 meeting, the LLCA Board of Directors voted to suspend all student-run clubs after some community members challenged the new LGBTQ+ club. In today’s letter, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook explains that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization, Raptors for Christ, that has met on campus for five years.

“The LGBTQ+ club does not seek special treatment,” Brook writes in the letter. “They simply seek to be treated the same as other student groups on campus, a right guaranteed to them by the Equal Access Act.”

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In 2009, we worked to help pass the Healthy Youth Act, an effective measure that has increased access to comprehensive sex education for North Carolina students, parents, and schools and has contributed to a steady decrease in teen pregnancies across the state.

But now state lawmakers are working to weaken the Healthy Youth Act by removing the requirement that sex ed be taught by recognized sexual health experts. SB 279 could even enable the return of abstinence-only education in our public schools.

Tell your House representative to reject any changes to the Healthy Youth Act and oppose SB 279!

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By Aleksandr Sverdlik, Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief

Claiming that they merely want to improve students' educational options, "school choice" proponents observed "National School Choice Week" over the past seven days. "School choice" may sound innocuous, but more often than not, a cry for "school choice" is a cry for private school vouchers – a reckless scheme that results in neither quality education nor real choice.

That's why the ACLU joined with allies Friday to file a friend-of-the-court brief opposing a North Carolina voucher program. As we explain in the brief, vouchers undermine the separation of church and state. They do this by shifting millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools – which are open to all, regardless of faith – to private schools, the vast majority of which are religious. In turn, taxpayer funds directly support religious instruction – and not just in theology class, but in biology class, history class, and even math class.

In North Carolina, for example, private religious schools are not required to comply with the same academic standards applied to public schools, and many use Christian textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education. These publishers have produced textbooks teaching, among other inaccurate lessons, that "[d]inosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may even have lived side by side within the past few thousand years." What's more, private religious schools can and do discriminate, for example by excluding students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today approved a Senate bill that would require public colleges and universities to recognize and grant funding and facilities to student groups that discriminate by ousting leaders or students based on their personal beliefs. SB 719 requires recognition of groups that “order their internal affairs” and “resolve the organization’s disputes” according to their faith or mission – which could be interpreting as kicking out or denying membership to certain students. The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina opposes the bill.

“This bill would force taxpayers to fund school groups even when they discriminate by rejecting students based on their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The right of student groups to organize and meet without school resources is not in question.  The only question is whether colleges and universities should be forced to fund and lend other resources to groups that discriminate not only in how they select student leaders, but potentially in how they select or determine membership.”   

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