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This was announced this afternoon by the good people at the ACLU of North Carolina:

Rep. Duane Hall to Advance Student Data Protections as Part of National Focus on Privacy Issues
North Carolina Joins Nationwide, Bipartisan Effort to Empower Americans to #TakeCTRL of Their Privacy

RALEIGH — Today, Representative Duane Hall (Wake County) asked his legislative colleagues in North Carolina to focus on the issue of student data privacy and to support legislation, which Rep. Hall plans to introduce during the 2016 session, that would prohibit school officials from forcing or coercing students or applicants into providing access to their personal social media accounts, except under a limited set of specifically defined circumstances, such as investigating specific allegations of harassment.

“In the twenty first century, social media platforms have become some of the most important and vibrant forums for people to exchange ideas and exercise their right to free speech with a selective audience,” Hall said. “When school officials demand access to an individual’s social accounts, it constitutes a significant violation of personal privacy, and it would have a chilling effect on free speech. That’s why it’s important that school officials be prohibited from forcing or coercing students to provide access to their social media accounts, except under a very narrow set of circumstances.”

The announcement in North Carolina is one of 16 taking place simultaneously throughout of the country — from Hawaii to North Carolina, from Alaska to Alabama, and from New Hampshire to New York to New Mexico — with a diverse, bipartisan coalition of elected officials and citizens coming together to tell the nation they care about their digital privacy and are willing to join together to fight for it. The message from these collective actions by the states is clear: where Congress is unwilling or unable to act to protect Americans’ privacy, or takes actions that are insufficient, the states are more than willing to step up and fill the void. Together, these states have introduced a range of new legislation that includes protections for student privacy, location tracking and personal data.

The multi-state effort is using the Twitter hashtag #TakeCTRL.

The bipartisan actions by the states, which are intended to highlight the strong and diverse nationwide support for legislation that empowers people to take control of their privacy, are mirrored by the results of a recent poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, which found that 90% of Americans believed (73% of them “strongly”) that the next president should make “protecting privacy so we have more control over our personal information” a policy priority.

The 16 very diverse states, plus the District of Columbia, making announcements represent more than 30% of the nation’s states; their bills have the ability to impact nearly 100 million people; and they collectively account for 169 electoral votes.

Commentary, News

A bit of hopeful news to start the final month of the year from-the ACLU of North Carolina:

Lake Lure School Board Votes to Reinstate LGBTQ+ and Other Student Clubs

LAKE LURE, N.C. – The Board of Directors of Lake Lure Classical Academy voted in a special session last night to lift its ban on student-led clubs. A new policy will require K-8 students, but not high school students, to obtain parental consent to join clubs.

The board had suspended all student-led noncurricular clubs after some community members challenged an LGBTQ+ club that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) had urged the school to rescind the ban and provide equal treatment to all student-run clubs, including the LGBTQ+ club.

“We commend the board for allowing all student-run clubs to have equal access to school resources,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCLF. “Federal law requires all students clubs – whether it’s a chess club, Bible study group, or Gay-Straight Alliance – to be treated equally. It’s also important that the new policy allows high school students to exercise their First Amendment right to decide what clubs to join. Students should be free to join LGBTQ+ and Gay-Straight Alliance clubs that seek to create a safe space and promote equality for all students on campus. ”

In a Nov. 18 letter, the ACLU-NCLF explained that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization that has met on campus for five years.

The ACLU-NCLF’s letter is available at http://acluofnc.org/files/letters/ACLUNC_Letter_to_LLCA_LGBTQ_Club.pdf

Commentary

As reported here this week:

“A Lake Lure charter school suspended all of its extra-curricular clubs last week after controversy erupted over a new club that supports lesbian, gay and transgender students.

The board of directors for Lake Lure Classical Academy, which serves students from kindergarten through high school in Rutherford County community, voted for the temporary suspension of extra-curricular activities Thursday.”

Today, the ACLU of North Carolina called on the school to reverse its decision:

“Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) should promptly rescind its ban on all student-led noncurricular groups, including an LGBTQ+ student organization that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students, according to a letter sent today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) to school officials.

At its November 12 meeting, the LLCA Board of Directors voted to suspend all student-run clubs after some community members challenged the new LGBTQ+ club. In today’s letter, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook explains that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization, Raptors for Christ, that has met on campus for five years.

“The LGBTQ+ club does not seek special treatment,” Brook writes in the letter. “They simply seek to be treated the same as other student groups on campus, a right guaranteed to them by the Equal Access Act.”

Read the entire letter by clicking here.

News

A Lake Lure charter school suspended all of its extra-curricular clubs last week after controversy erupted over a new club that supports lesbian, gay and transgender students.

The board of directors for Lake Lure Classical Academy, which serves students from kindergarten through high school in Rutherford County community, voted for the temporary suspension of extra-curricular activities Thursday.

Community members and parents spoke out at a school board meeting in support and against the newly-formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Club, according to the Daily Courier, a newspaper based in nearby Forest City.

From the Daily Courier’s article:

“I support the students who created the LGBT Club. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Raptor now,” parent Frances Brown said to the board. “My brother was bullied all through high school and I’m so grateful a club like this exits. This is about students feeling less alone and safe to be who they are. Thank you for embracing the difference in students.”

However, other parents expressed their concerns on the nature of the club since LLCA is a K-12 school. One grandmother said she had to explain the meaning of “gay” and “lesbian” to her elementary school student because the club put up a poster.

Another citizen told the board since it is a public school it has the ability to do away with the club. He said he did not have a child at Lake Lure, but if he did he would take them out immediately. He said the only diversity the school needs is the Bible.

Layne Long, a teacher who sponsored the club, said a student approached her about forming the club and was more than happy to have her classroom serve as a meeting place, according to the Daily Courier.

“This is not a religious club, this is a human rights club,” Long said.

Read More

Commentary

As reported in this space yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory will speak in Charlotte later this month at an event organized by a far right activist group that wants the United States to be a “Christian nation.” And though he is now distancing himself from it, a full-page ad in Monday’s Charlotte Observer indicated that the Governor was actually inviting people to attend the event to join him for “a time of worship, prayer, fasting and repentance.”

Now, the First Amendment experts at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina want  to know more about what the heck all of this all about. This is from a press statement the group released this morning:

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation is asking whether Governor Pat McCrory’s office is using any taxpayer dollars or other public resources to promote religion at an upcoming prayer rally in Charlotte. In a public records request filed yesterday, the civil liberties group asked for information regarding the governor’s participation in The Response: North Carolina on September 26 at the Charlotte Convention Center. The event’s website says the focus of the rally is ‘unashamedly Christian’ and ‘the only name that will be lifted up will be the name of Jesus Christ.’ Gov. McCrory is being advertised as the event’s main speaker.

‘North Carolinians deserve to know whether Governor McCrory is spending their tax dollars to promote religion,’ said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation. ‘Elected officials have every right to practice and discuss their faith, but they shouldn’t use taxpayer resources to promote their own religious views over others.’

The ACLU-NC Legal Foundation’s public records request to Gov. McCrory’s office is available at acluofnc.org.

We’ll keep readers apprised as the story develops.