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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Student and Youth Rights

By Dr. Craig Fischer, Professor of Film and Cultural Studies at Appalachian State University

On Saturday, June 21, I hosted an ACLU of North Carolina-sponsored panel on “Comics Regulation and Comics Censorship” at Heroes Con, the Southeast’s longest running comicon. The well-attended discussion addressed instances when political and public outrage over the content of comic books clashed with the First Amendment.

The panel began with a discussion of a recent controversy in South Carolina, where legislators in the House of Representatives threatened to reduce state funding to the College of Charleston as a penalty for using Alison Bechdel’s lesbian-themed graphic novel Fun Home (2006) in a campus program. Present for the Fun Home discussion were Dr. Conseula Francis, a comics scholar and professor of English at the College of Charleston, and Christopher Brook, ACLU-NC Legal Director. Brook and Francis discussed the literary merits of Fun Home, the importance of protecting academic freedom, and the ways in which the “comic books are for kids” stereotype make adult graphic novels more susceptible to attack.

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today approved a Senate bill that would require public colleges and universities to recognize and grant funding and facilities to student groups that discriminate by ousting leaders or students based on their personal beliefs. SB 719 requires recognition of groups that “order their internal affairs” and “resolve the organization’s disputes” according to their faith or mission – which could be interpreting as kicking out or denying membership to certain students. The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina opposes the bill.

“This bill would force taxpayers to fund school groups even when they discriminate by rejecting students based on their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The right of student groups to organize and meet without school resources is not in question.  The only question is whether colleges and universities should be forced to fund and lend other resources to groups that discriminate not only in how they select student leaders, but potentially in how they select or determine membership.”   

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today passed S.B. 370, “Respect for Student Prayer/Religious Liberty,” which purports to clarify the rights of public school students to freely engage in religious activities and the proper role of school personnel during such expression. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina opposes the bill because existing law already protects the right of religious expression for students and S.B. 370 could create confusion and serve to ostracize students of different beliefs.

“The right of students to voluntarily express and practice their faith in public schools is already well-established and protected by the First Amendment,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “Some of this bill’s unnecessary and confusing language could wrongly encourage public school personnel to takes sides in student-led religious activity, making students with different beliefs feel excluded or ostracized not only by their classmates, but also by their teachers and schools.” 

The bill has already passed the state Senate but was modified by the House and now must return to the Senate for concurrence before being sent to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today voted 77 to 39 to pass House Bill 725, the Young Offender Rehabilitation Act, which would place 16 and 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors under the jurisdiction of North Carolina’s juvenile justice system by 2020. North Carolina is currently one of only two states in the nation that treats 16 and 17 year olds as adults in its criminal justice system.

“Today’s bipartisan vote is a hugely important step toward ensuring that young people in our criminal justice system are not only protected, but given a chance to correct course,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “Young people who land in the adult criminal justice system are disproportionately at risk while in custody, more likely to return to criminal behavior than those placed in the juvenile system, and denied jobs and educational opportunities that could help them turn their lives around and contribute to society. We urge the Senate to follow the example set by these bipartisan House members and vote in favor of HB 725.”

A recent survey by the ACLU-NC found that virtually all of North Carolina’s county jails are failing to comply with new federal regulations set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which requires facilities to house 16 and 17 year olds separately from adult inmates, though many are working toward compliance.

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