November 6, 2017                                        November e-Newsletter
Student Journalist Free Speech Rights Violated:
At Evanston Township High School, on September 22, all copies of the student paper The Evanstonian were confiscated from the locations where it had been distributed. The student newspaper contained several stories about marijuana use in Illinois and at the school.  Students had received approval from the administration to publish these stories, and assumed the confiscation had to do with the subject of the stories.  But students could not get an explanation from the administration about the confiscation, even after repeated inquiries.  They contacted CAC for help.  

Fearing that the issue would be swept under the proverbial rug, the students wanted help in getting an appropriate response from the school and redistributing the confiscated edition of their paper.  CAC advised them of their right to seek resolution of this matter by addressing their school board, which was next meeting October 9: the school board needed information about the recently enacted law, the confiscation of the paper, and the adherence to editorial standards made by the students.  CAC educated them on the nuts and bolts of providing public comment, including the importance of having a clear "ask."  

Eventually, the students were given an appointment to meet with administrators on October 13.  Legal requirements state that when an administration censors the student paper, justification must be provided "without undue delay."  In CAC's opinion, to provide a justification for the confiscation 3 weeks after the fact does not meet the law's requirement. In the meantime, no facts had been proffered by the school to support any justification for the confiscation, and the students didn't observe any activity at school that could be used to justify it.

The students did an outstanding job at the school board meeting. They gave a public comment and stated that none of the pieces were opinion editorial, and the stories weren't libelous or otherwise didn't violate laws. They emphasized their practice of adhering to editorial standards.

CAC community lawyer Maryam Judar spoke before the school board on October 9 to admonish them for ignoring the law's requirement to advise the student of their justification for the confiscation within a reasonable time frame, and to caution them against confiscating student speech solely to save the school from embarrassment or discomfort.  

What ensued counts for three measures of success.  First, one of the board members publicly stated during  the school board meeting that the confiscation issue should be discussed during open session at the next board meeting.  Second, CAC assisted the students to garner media attention to this violation of their rights, and two local news outlets reported on the issue and monitored the situation. Third, within days, the administration published a statement outlining their justification for the paper's confiscation, albeit without providing specific facts to bolster their justification.

Students and the administration are currently discussing the parameters for redistribution of the paper, and the policy by which they should handle similar situations in the future. CAC continues to monitor the situation.  
Civic Education -  CAC Advances Civic Learning in Illinois 
On August 21, 2015, Governor Rauner signed House Bill (HB) 4025 (Public Act 99-0434) into law, requiring that future Illinois high school students complete a stand-alone, semester-long civics course. Course content must include instruction on government institutions, current and controversial issues discussions, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes. The course mandate applies to incoming freshmen for the 2016-17 school year.  Maryam Judar representing the Citizen Advocacy Center had a significant role on the Civic Education Task Force - the study group that achieved this important change in civic education in the State of Illinois.

CAC The Citizen Advocacy Center and the League of Women Voters Roselle-Bloomingdale co-sponsored a public forum, "The Return of Civic Education to Illinois High Schools" in October at Lake Park High School in Roselle.  Theis purpose of this event was to explore and celebrate the implementation of the new civic education requirement in Illinois.  Speakers included: DuPage County sSuperintendent of eEducation, Darlene Ruscitti,; McCormick Foundation cCivic eEducation cCoordinator, Barb Laimins;, Maryam Judar, Citizen Advocacy Center executive director/community lawyer, Maryam Judar;, Don Fuller, Chair, Social Studies Department chair, Don Fuller; andand Gina Mayo, civic education teacher, Lake Park High School civic education teacher, Gina Mayo.  Those in attendance heard about what it took to get this new learning requirement in place, how it is being implemented, and an example of a what the curriculum fromat  one local area high school, looks like and some of the things students are learning and creating through their civic education coursework.  CAC The Citizen Advocacy Center received enormous praise at this forum for its leadership role in bringing civic education back to Illinois schools, and its continuing commitment and achievements as a strong force in the civic education and engagement of all citizens.
What Are Your Rights as a Student?
Community Lawyers Maryam Judar and Ben Silver joined members of the Downers Grove South faculty and administration on a panel to answer students' questions about their constitutional rights in school. The panel discussed students' rights to free speech on campus and online, their rights to privacy and due process, and how school administrators create and enforce policies that respect these rights. Students asked questions about situations they might see this year, including athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, searches of student property, and debating controversial subjects in the classroom.
New Citizen Guide: Demystifying the Legislative Process
CAC announces release of a new  Citizen Guide to the Legislative Process and Public Participation: Demystifying the Legislative ProcessLearn about the background on the Illinois legislature, how a bill becomes law, and how to provide testimony in support or opposition of a bill through electronic witness slips.
Holiday Cheer Party Starring: 2017 Citizen Initiative Awardees!
Date: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Time: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Place: Citizen Advocacy Center, 182 N. York St., Elmhurst, IL 60126

It's time to celebrate civic engagement! We hope you can join us for an inspiring evening.  

What is a Citizen Initiative Award? Each year the Citizen Advocacy Center (CAC) gives out Citizen Initiative Awards to  recognize  local community activists who are catalysts for democratic participation and have used civic, legal, and community organizing tools to advocate for a self-identified issue of public concern. 

Event is free and open to the public. Suggested donation: $10.00.

*Recognition by CAC is not in any way an endorsement of any individual who is or may become a candidate for public office.
The work of CAC depends on the investment of people like you. Will you make a gift today to support building democracy in communities like yours?
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