Youth Topic Icon


All young people must have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in our society. The ACLU Youth Policy project seeks to ensure that young people – particularly those who have been historically excluded or underserved – receive meaningful education and services in communities, instead of being pushed to a juvenile justice system that will undermine their ability to be successful as adults. Our current focus is on reforming school discipline policies and practices, working to limit school-based referrals to the juvenile justice system, and decreasing the over-reliance on jails and prisons for young people in the juvenile and adult criminal law systems.

Topic Resources

Friday, June 18, 2010
Have you ever gone somewhere and gotten the distinct impression that you were not welcome?  Suppose you were a student of color and a school board member stated his belief that you are incapable of academic success because of your race. What could you possibly make of this? Recently, Marysville School Board Member Michael Kundu told his fellow board members that he believes that academic achievement is genetically determined.    In an e-mail discussion, Kundu asserted that students in certain racial groups are simply incapable of achieving academic success based on biological or genetic disadvantages. In other words, a third of the students in the Marysville School District are almost not worth teaching. Read more
Friday, June 4, 2010
In passing the Healthy Youth Act in 2007, Washington’s legislature affirmed that our youth need comprehensive and accurate sex education. It is now up to all of us to make sure that the spirit of the law is honored in our communities; by doing this, we can take a large step toward protecting the reproductive health of our youth. Read more
Friday, May 14, 2010
This session the Washington Legislature passed a landmark civil rights law (HB 3026). The measure explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, religion, disability, national origin, veteran or military status, and disability in public schools – sex discrimination was previously banned. And it gives the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) the tools to enforce compliance with these prohibitions against discrimination. This is an important step forward. But it's not time to breathe a sigh of relief yet. There is more work to ensure this law does what it is supposed to do. OSPI is hosting town halls across the state to get community members’ input to inform the creation of the Washington State Code (WAC) that will implement the new law.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
While everyone seems to agree that parental involvement in schools is critical, the ACLU just filed an amicus brief in a case illustrating some of the obstacles that can arise when parents try to get involved. Yesterday, Division One of the Washington state Court of Appeals accepted the ACLU of Washington’s amicus brief in the case of State v. Green. This was a case where the mother of an elementary school student was indefinitely banned from school grounds, or “trespassed,” from her son’s elementary school in the Kent School District after she repeatedly asked pointed questions about curriculum, district policies, textbooks, and lesson plans at a “Curriculum Night” event held for parents. The District denied her request for a hearing to challenge the trespass order, and she ended up being cited and criminally prosecuted for going back to the school twice – once to try to attend a parent-teacher conference and a book fair, and once to pick up her son from a Science Fair. No one questions schools’ authority to regulate access to school grounds in order to ensure a safe and productive educational environment. The ACLU’s brief in this case explains why a school cannot simply banish a parent from her child’s school indefinitely without any opportunity for a hearing to challenge the allegation that was causing a disruption. For good reason, our state legislature passed a law this year directing that the Center for Improvement of Student Learning identify and highlight successful models and practices of parent involvement so that successful schools can be recognized. The Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman also provides resources for families and school districts who want to work on developing successful partnerships and resolving conflicts. And students and families that want to advocate for improvements in their own District’s policies and practices regarding family involvement can find helpful tips in the ACLU of Washington’s Parents’ Guide to School Board Advocacy, also available in Spanish. The brief was written by ACLU of Washington’s cooperating attorney, Jamal Whitehead, formerly at Garvey, Schubert & Barer with ACLU Staff Attorneys Nancy Talner and Rose Spidell.
News Release, Published: 
Monday, April 26, 2010
After the ACLU intervened, a female student received credit for a physical education class from which school officials wrongfully barred her due to her pregnancy.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Legislature took significant strides in protecting privacy and extending fairness in several important areas: voting rights reform, domestic partnership rights, privacy for car travelers, and fair play in community sports.
News Release, Published: 
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
A Q&A about walkouts, policy regarding absences, and other student political speech at public schools.
News Release, Published: 
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A Q&A of issues regarding military recruitment at schools
News Release, Published: 
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Activist academic Phil Bereano (pictured at right), attorneys Amanda Lee and Jeff Robinson, and youth activist Colin Moyer have received the ACLU of Washington's 2009 awards for extraordinary efforts to defend and advance civil liberties.