Sixth Grader Denied Right to Freely Present Report on Harvey Milk

Posted May 21, 2009 by Carolyn E. Price
A 12-year-old student at a San Diego area elementary school was not allowed to freely present her independent research project on assassinated school superintendent Harvey Milk because the school deemed that the subject matter was too "sensitive" .
Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk
Stephen Coles
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego has now taken up the cause of a sixth-grader who was told she could not present her independent research project to her class without parental permission.
The day before 12-year-old Natalie Jones was to present her report on slain San Francisco School Superintendent Harvey Milk, she was told by the principal of Mount Woodson Elementary School that she would not be allowed to show her presentation to the class because the subject matter of her presentation was "sensitive."
Principal Theresa Grace said the the school board's policy dealing with sex-education issues had to be followed. The boards policy says that parents must be notified when students are being taught on the subjects of sex or "family life, human sexuality, AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases.”
The school rescheduled Natalie's presentation to a lunch time slot on May 8, and sent home a letter to all Natalie's classmates with a permission slip attached. The letter stated that parent's permission was being sought “in order to respect the rights of all our students and their parents.
The legal director at the ACLU, David Blair-Loy, believes that the school and the school board violated Natalie's free speech rights.
We think the school district singled out and discriminated against Natalie's speech because of its content. This is not sex education. This is a presentation about Harvey Milk, a historical figure who happened to be gay.
The ACLU wants the district to apologize to Natalie, send letters “reflecting such apology” to parents who received the school district permission request, let Natalie give the presentation to the whole class and clarify that the board policy applies only to course content for sex-education instruction. The group also wants the district to say situations like this won't happen again.
Natalie did get a chance to make her presentation, but it was only to about half of the class during a lunch period.
You can check out Natalie's PowerPoint presentation (in pdf format) here.