Portland – A federal judge today blocked the suspension of a Maine sophomore, A.M., who was punished for posting a note in the school bathroom to raise awareness about sexual assault. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker issued a preliminary injunction against the Cape Elizabeth school department after the ACLU of Maine filed a lawsuit challenging the student’s suspension.
The ACLU of Maine argued that the note was First Amendment-protected speech meant to call attention to sexual assault at the school and to hold the school administration accountable for keeping students safe.
The following can be attributed to Alison Beyea, executive director at the ACLU of Maine: “Speaking up about sexual assault is already difficult for young people. If this punishment had been allowed to stand, it would have only made it more difficult. Today’s decision reaffirms that students have the right to freedom of speech, and that they do not check their rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
The following can be attributed Shael Norris, the mother of A.M., who is named on the complaint on behalf of her daughter: “All my daughter ever wanted was for students to feel safe speaking out about sexual assault. I’m so proud of her for standing up for what she believes in. We’re thrilled about today’s decision.”
In his ruling, Judge Walker writes: “The public has an interest in knowing that neither (A.M.) nor any other student who expresses a comparable view in similar fashion will be denied access to school simply because her viewpoint offends the sensibilities of school administrators. Something more is necessary to justify punishment. If school administrators receive carte blanche to tamp down and vet non-frivolous outcries on topics of social justice, expressed in areas generally associated with free student communication, where would that leave us?”
More information about the case is available here: https://www.aclumaine.org/en/press-releases/aclu-files-legal-action-over...