Pennridge’s policy on student speech worries parents and the ACLU


The policy is intended to limit any non-academic material disseminated by students.

Non-academic material is defined as “any printed, technological, or written material, regardless of form, source, or authorship, that is not prepared as part of the district’s curricular or extracurricular program, including, but not limited to, flyers, invitations, announcements, flyers, posters, chat rooms and digital bulletin boards, personal websites, etc.

During committee meeting when this policy was discussed, Pennridge Superintendent David Bolton said: ‘I promise the intention of this will not be Valentine’s Day in primary school. I promise. Although, technically, it could very well.

Representatives for Pennridge did not respond to WHYY’s multiple requests for comment.

Walczak said the ACLU is gearing up for a fight.

“I am almost speechless at the overreach of this policy. It literally says the school has the right to control anything that students communicate to each other in writing, text or digitally,” Walczak said.

Walczak said the policy was “Orwellian”.

“It has no place in a public school. He has no place in America.

Walczak said the policy could limit a student who wishes to wear a pride sticker, or share a printed invitation with others to come to their “social church.”

He said the ACLU would consider a “pre-application” challenge. Which means that even before the district enforces the policy, the ACLU could take them to court.

“But even if it’s not, as soon as they apply it incorrectly, and that’s a highway to improper application, we’ll be in court once we get a complaint.”

Stacey Smith has a daughter entering third grade in the district.

She is part of a group of parents who are coordinating efforts to fight the policies. Smith described the situation as “crushing”.

“It feels like a stranglehold on their expression as students,” Smith said. “My daughter sometimes wears a t-shirt to school that says ‘love is love’ or something like that. Will that mean she can’t wear that shirt to school? »

Smith pointed to a problem with a number of the board’s proposed policies: vague terminology. And as Walczak explained, just like in the Battle of Central Bucks, the vagueness leaves the door open to unconstitutional censorship.

A policy of “advocacy activities”

Another Pennridge policy on the ACLU’s radar: “Advocacy activities.”

The proposed policy states that the council recognizes the rights of its employees “to engage in areas of advocacy, including, but not limited to, religion, gender identity, social, political and geopolitical issues. . However, district time, resources, property, or equipment, paid for by taxpayers, may not be used for advocacy purposes by district employees in the performance of their assigned duties.


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