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ACLU Urges Treating Student Protests As Excused Absences, Teaching Moments


With more student protests expected after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is encouraging schools to "nurture your students’ efforts to learn for themselves about participatory democracy."

In an open letter published Monday, the civil liberties group suggests excusing absences for students who demonstrate.

ACLU lawyer Rebecca Glenberg said schools already excuse absences for things like religious holidays and doctor appointments.

“We think that exercising their free speech rights is conducive to their well being as well,” she said, "and that this should be considered a good reason for occasionally missing class."

The letter adds that the protests could be a great opportunity to teach students about the history and importance of protest movements.

Some schools are giving students free rein to demonstrate. Others have set limits on how long students can be out of class or what they can say.

Neither the Illinois Association of School Administrators nor the Illinois State Rifle Association responded to requests for comment on this story.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.