Chicago – Noting the heightened interest of high school students across the nation and Illinois to participate in public policy discussions, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today issued an open letter to educators across the state on ways to encourage student participation in this process.  The letter notes that the students of Parkland, Florida who survived a mass shooting at their high school (where 17 students and faculty were murdered) have inspired students from all parts of the state to band together to speak out on public policy. The ACLU encourages the educators and administrators to interpret rules and policies in a way that encourages student participation.  

The letter calls this a “rare moment” when classroom lessons on civics can be transformed into action and provide an opportunity for lifelong learning.  The letter goes on, “As educators, you can take full advantage of this moment and nurture your students’ efforts to learn for themselves participatory democracy.” 

Specifically, the ACLU encourages the educators to take the following steps:

  •  Interpret absentee policies liberally to allow students to attend demonstrations;
  • Ensure that policies regarding on-campus speech allow ample room for public discussion;
  • Foster discussion among students with different views; and,
  •  Provide historical context. 

The letter closes by encouraging Illinois’ educators to “foster your students’ civil awakening and help to ensure the health of our democracy in decades to come.”  

A full copy of the letter can be found here.