PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Public School students have made headlines the past few years for staging walkouts, back in 2016 to protest the election of Pres. Donald Trump, and last year to call for more strict gun control during the #MarchForOurLives.
Ahead of another scheduled protest among PPS students this Friday, we wanted to Verify: Are student protests and walkouts protected by the First Amendment?
Student protests are considered free speech as protected by the First Amendment. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
"As a general rule, the First Amendment protects protests by students," Mat Dos Santos with the ACLU said. "That protection is critically important, and gives them the opportunity to begin their education in civil life."
PPS officials are urging students who participate in a climate change walkout this Friday to remain on school grounds.
If they leave school, they will be marked absent -- but those First Amendment rights still apply off school grounds.
"Generally speaking, we applaud school districts when they support protests and what I’ve seen at PPS the past couple of years is facilitation, where the school simply says, 'We’re going to allow protests to happen in organized way to protect student safety,'" Dos Santos said, adding that laws require schools to protect students who are in their care.
According to an administrative directive from PPS, principals may authorize demonstrations, so long as they are "not disruptive to the time and place and are not inimical to school order, discipline or achievement of district or school goals."
Non-citizens are also protected by the First Amendment, but if a protest were to turn violent or include criminal behavior, it could potentially lead to consequences in immigration proceedings among undocumented students.
We can Verify: Yes, student protests are protected by the First Amendment in school and beyond.
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