2. My school is threatening to punish me or has punished me simply for my appearance or choice of clothes, can you give me any advice or help in any way?

With all the reports coming in from students across the country telling their stories of how their school administrators are abusing power through unconstitutional infringements on student's rights to free expression, we decided to go ahead and put together something of an advice guide for students finding themselves on the receiving end of school disciplinary actions.

In today's school environment, all sorts of forms of expression are under attack. Depending on your school's policies, you can likely be suspended for the "crime" of expressing that you like certain music through your shirt of choice, for choosing a hair color that administrators do not like, for getting body piercings that contrast with mainstream society's accepted norms, for wearing certain types of clothing (such as trenchcoats) that administrators have deemed out of bounds, for wearing religious symbols (mostly non-Christian ones), wearing clothing containing certain colors, and much more. We at Rock Out Censorship feel all such policies are at best, misguided attempts at providing security in the school setting, and at worst, fascist attempts at absolute control by and for those in positions of authority.

Most of our efforts are working towards fighting such policies and seeing to it that they never come into existence. However, in the oppressive reality we currently live in, these policies are becoming more and more prevalent, so we've decided to step back and prepare something for those of you that become victims of this policy in hopes of guiding you to the best possibility of maintaining your rights and punishing those that are abusing their power.

So here's what to do if you get that call to the principal's office. Note that we plan to update this advice guide after consulting with some ACLU attorneys to really solidify what's said and add to it. As is, it's just a few things that we think all students should know and tips on conducting yourself in the disciplinary process. This is not something that will absolutely succeed, but something we feel will provide you with the best chance for success.

1. When called to the office over something about your appearance, do not become belligerent whatsoever. In any court challenge on school policy, you do not want to have to fight additional charges against you other than the appearance charges. Stand your ground as far as your rights go, but don't start yelling and/or calling your administrators every bad name you can think of. This will help you dramatically in the court of public opinion to show that you aren't just some rebellious kid looking to start trouble. This will keep the focus of any challenge solely on your right to wear the clothes you wish to wear to express yourself.

2. Get everything in writing! Get them to write down why you are being disciplined, what school rule you violated, specifically how your actions were in violation of that rule, the actual text of the school rule violated, etc. Make certain that everything they SAY you are being punished for gets put in writing. Don't let them write one thing but leave off some other thing they might verbally say to you. Having documented evidence of everything that happens will be very helpful for making a presentation to the ACLU. If they refuse to give you documentation in writing, then show them this Supreme Court Ruling (they can give oral or written notice) and also this story about a suspension that was overturned due to the administration's failure to give written notice, and be sure to take detailed notes of everything said during the process.

3. Contact your state/local ACLU offices and inquire how to go about submitting a complaint for their review. Usually, they'll have you mail them a written account of all that happened and they'll decide if your situation is something where it would be in their interest to assist you with a court challenge. A listing of ACLU chapters as well as other First Amendment attorneys can be found at:

4. Contact us and submit an incident report as well. Depending on how backlogged with work we are at the time, and after an investigation to confirm the validity of your reported situation, we will try to put out an incident update for your situation on our website and through our mailing list to publicize your situation and try to rally opposition to your school's policy.

5. Do everything you can do to get the support of your parent(s). Having them on your side and speaking on your behalf will often go a long way towards getting your punishment overturned. We realize that for some of you, that won't be possible, but we hope that there are some parents out there that feel it is more important to stand up for their child's Constitutional rights instead of promoting blind subservience to authority.

6. If you are able to secure the support of your parent(s), have them contact the school and send them the following:
  • Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. - United States Court Of Appeals for the Eighth
    Circuit. - Decided February 24, 1969.

  • Massie v. Henry - 1972 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case - Decided February 2, 1972
  • Virginia Student reinstated and suspension reversed in blue hair case.
  • Michigan Student victorious in court challenge over Wiccan symbols in school.
  • ACLU Settles Marilyn Manson T-Shirt Case in North Carolina
  • notification that if the policy and punishment are not reversed, that you will be contacting the ACLU regarding getting assistance in filing a civil rights lawsuit against the school for violation of your First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

    Note that there is no guarantee that this will end in a court victory for you or even that there is a guarantee that the ACLU will be willing/able to take on your case, as each situation is different. But in our opinion, this is the best course of action to take in any given situation of this nature.

    Good luck to all students being forced to grow up in such an oppressive environment where your freedoms are being trampled with impunity by school administrators, often with less-than-honorable motivations.

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