ACLU claims Sacramento teacher violated free speech by throwing away BLM artwork

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- An art project at Del Paso Manor Elementary School is stirring controversy after a teacher tried to censor some students, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU said it comes down to free speech, but the district said the teacher was just trying to ensure the students followed the assignment.

“In 2019, we shouldn’t be having a conversation about whether or not the lives of black people is political or controversial or inappropriate,” ACLU attorney Abre’ Conner said.

The ACLU is representing a woman who was volunteering as a docent to teach art to Mr. Madden’s fifth-grade class.

Students were asked to draw a picture showing a change they’d like to see in their school. Four kids, including the volunteer’s daughters, made posters in support of Black Lives Matter.

“He threw away the Black Lives Matter artwork and our understanding is that did not happen for the other artwork because, of course, it was displayed in his classroom,” Conner said.

The teacher allegedly told students that “political speech” has no place in school and told the students to redo the art project. He also barred the woman from volunteering in his class.

According to the ACLU, it’s a violation of California law and their First Amendment rights.

“It has to be a material, substantial disruption or obscene, lewd or vulgar. And of course, just supporting black students and black lives does not meet that criteria,” Conner said.

A public apology is now being requested from the school along with cultural and sensitivity training and a policy change to allow Black Lives Matter posters.

The school district declined an on-camera interview but sent FOX40 a statement that says in part:

As stated in the letter from the ACLU, the teacher’s understanding of the resulting assignment was for students to produce artwork related to a change they wanted to see within the school itself. Students whose artwork focused on large social issues, which varied in topic, and was not directly tied to the school, were asked by the teacher to complete another poster the next day. ...

… It is inconsistent with our values and never our intent or desire for any student to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome to discuss issues that are important to them. We sincerely apologize if this experience made any student feel such discomfort.

As for other parents at the school, they’re split on whether the posters should be allowed.

“They’re just little. Let’s just let them be kids, right?” parent Becky Welcher said. "And then we'll get to that when they get a little bit older."

Another parent, Quincy Nevares, said if they feel like that and they feel that need to speak on something like that, then she’s going to have their back.

The ACLU contacted the district about the issue today, so the district said it’s still looking into some of the claims.

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