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Student and Youth Rights

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

RALEIGH – Two of North Carolina’s leading civil rights organizations are asking state officials to reinstate a policy that allowed young immigrants who have been authorized to be in the United States and granted work permits under a federal program to receive North Carolina driver’s licenses.

“North Carolina’s denial of driver’s licenses to people who meet all DMV requirements raises serious constitutional concerns,” said Raul Pinto, ACLU-NCLF staff attorney. “We hope officials do the right thing and continue to grant licenses to all drivers who qualify. It makes no sense to say that people authorized to live and work in the United States should not be allowed to drive.”

The state Department of Motor Vehicles had until recently been granting licenses to young immigrants who had been granted a two-year work permit under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That program blocks deportation for young immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16, are not older than 31, have graduated high school or attended college, or served in the military. The state DMV now says it will stop issuing licenses to DACA deferred action recipients until it receives a legal opinion from the state attorney general.


RALEIGH – A new state law, the 2012 School Violence Prevention Act, that will be the first in the nation to impose criminal sanctions on public school students who use computers with the “intent to intimidate or torment” school employees will go into effect Dec. 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina opposes this law because it is too broad, threatens to chill students’ free speech, sets a bad precedent by telling students it’s wrong to criticize government officials, and could saddle students as young as 16 with up to 60 days in jail or a $1,000 fine for a wide range of acts that do not merit a criminal punishment. The law would even criminalize true statements by prohibiting online statements “whether true or false, (emphasis added) intending to immediately provoke, and that is likely to provoke, any third party to stalk or harass a school employee.”

The ACLU-NC is urging any student who is charged under this new law to contact its office.


The ACLU, North Carolina Justice Center, and Wake County Choices submitted a letter on Sept. 19, 2012, to the Wake County School Board expressing concerns about public single-sex "leadership academies" that opened this year in Wake County.

"We have concerns that these academies are being organized as single-sex educational environments," the letter reads. "Single-sex education is too often based on the unproven and widely discredited theory that boys and girls learn and develop so differently that they need to be taught separately -- using different teaching techniques. This theory is based on harmful gender stereotypes that are repackaged as 'science.'"

Read the entire letter here.


In April 2009, we were contacted by students in the Onslow County School System (OCSS) concerning their difficulty in starting a Gay-Straight Alliance student organization (GSA) at Swansboro High School.

The students advised us that they are interested in forming this student organization in order to combat anti-gay harassment and discrimination and to educate the school community about the importance of equality and tolerance for diversity. Further, the students informed us that OCSS may be utilizing internet filtering software for school computers that improperly censor websites advocating the fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. Finally – and incredibly – one of the students approached a school official to ask about forming a GSA and to report anti-gay harassment by other students, and in response, this very school official subjected the student to anti-gay harassment. As such, we sent a letter to the Onslow County school board attorney on May 5, 2009, advising the school district of its obligations under the Equal Access Act and seeking documents about their web filtering software.

On May 28, 2009, the school board attorney advised us that “a student request to start a Gay-Straight Alliance Club will be provided the same access to school resources and privileges, and subject to the same school rules and procedures applicable to non-curriculum clubs.” We recently received documents responsive to our public records request and are currently reviewing those documents.

 The ACLU-NC expressed deep concerns over the segregation of students of color who were pulled out of seventh grade classes at Dillard Drive Middle School in Raleigh in December 2007 to be lectured on zero tolerance, gangs, school rules, and the need for students of color to get better grades, while white students were not removed from their classrooms or subjected to such lectures.

The ACLU-NC’s investigation into this incident has revealed that Dillard Drive Middle School Principal Teresa Abron pulled all African-American students from seventh-grade classes following a physical altercation between an African-American girl and a Hispanic girl, both seventh-grade students, in which some of these girls’ friends also became involved in a verbal altercation.  Teachers were instructed to send all African-American seventh graders to the auditorium that afternoon for an assembly on gangs, the school’s zero tolerance policies, and the importance of following school rules.  Reportedly, students who attended this assembly were also lectured on the low grade point average of students of color, compared to white students, at Dillard Drive Middle School.

Teachers were further instructed that once the African-American students returned to class, teachers should then dismiss all Hispanic seventh graders to the auditorium for a similar assembly.