Free Expression and Censorship

The ACLU works in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

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If you've been discriminated against based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status, the ACLU wants to hear about it.

What's at Stake

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in no uncertain terms over 45 years ago that public school students are protected by the First Amendment, schools have a long history of trying to censor student speech, especially when it’s about LGBT people. 

Wearing T-shirts, buttons, or wristbands that make a statement about LGBT issues are often attacked by schools, usually by claiming that this rainbow T-shirt or that trans pride button is “disruptive.” “Disruption” is used as an excuse for censoring everything from participating in the National Day of Silence to putting up posters about the GSA. Just being out and open about who you are—talking about who you are dating like any straight student might, or wearing clothes that don’t match the gender that school officials think you are—is also a protected form of expression.

If school administrators try to stop you from expressing yourself by telling you that you’re “disrupting” the school environment, don’t take their word for it! 

Need help?
Fill out our confidential online form

Or call (212) 549-2673. For non-LGBT issues, please contact your local ACLU affiliate.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in no uncertain terms over 45 years ago that public school students are protected by the First Amendment, schools have a long history of trying to censor student speech, especially when it’s about LGBT people. 

Wearing T-shirts, buttons, or wristbands that make a statement about LGBT issues are often attacked by schools, usually by claiming that this rainbow T-shirt or that trans pride button is “disruptive.” “Disruption” is used as an excuse for censoring everything from participating in the National Day of Silence to putting up posters about the GSA. Just being out and open about who you are—talking about who you are dating like any straight student might, or wearing clothes that don’t match the gender that school officials think you are—is also a protected form of expression.

If school administrators try to stop you from expressing yourself by telling you that you’re “disrupting” the school environment, don’t take their word for it! 

Need help?
Fill out our confidential online form

Or call (212) 549-2673. For non-LGBT issues, please contact your local ACLU affiliate.

a hand holding an American flag and a rainbow flag in front of the supreme court building
a crowd of people with fists in the air
Credit: Michelle Frankfurter, Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photos
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