LOS ANGELES - The ACLU California affiliates provided school districts across the state with information about students' free speech rights and school discipline in the wake of recent walkouts.

In the last few weeks, thousands of students have participated in walkouts throughout the state protesting proposed immigration legislation in Congress. More protests are expected in the upcoming weeks.

"We sent information to more than 1,000 school districts today and have been distributing similar information to public school students in Southern California to help ensure students' rights, under California law, are protected," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. "We hope this information will help guide school administrators in responding to possible walkouts and free speech activity and students in their decisions in how to best and most appropriately express themselves in the coming weeks."

The information provided to school districts includes the following:

' Students who miss school in order to participate in a political protest may not be punished more harshly than those who miss school for any other unapproved purpose.

' When school administrators lock exits to prevent students from walking out of school it can pose serious safety concerns for students and staff.

' Students are allowed to express their political views while in school. Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 2 of the California Constitution, student's free speech rights are guaranteed. This includes the right to wear buttons, hand out leaflets, write in "underground" or unofficial newspapers, distribute petitions and leaflets, and put notices on school bulletin boards.

The ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties sent the letter, along with a four-page document explaining students' free speech rights.

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