I’m often surprised by the number of school administrators under the mistaken belief that the First Amendment has an age limit. They think that while a kid is in elementary or middle school, they can stop them from expressing their views and that kids have to wait until high school to have constitutional rights.
They stand at the school house door, like the ticket collectors with a “You must be this tall to ride” sign at a carnival ride, blocking kids that are “not old enough” from handing out religious flyers or expressing a pro-life viewpoint.
That is exactly what happened to A.Z., a 6th grade student at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota. When she and her friends tried to distribute pro-life flyers and decorations during lunch to their classmates who wanted them, they were told that they couldn’t hand them out. When A.Z.’s father, Nick Zinos, contacted the executive director of the school seeking an explanation, the director told Mr. Zinos that only students in the high school have the right to engage in “political, religious, and controversial speech.” The director went on to claim that “the school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech.”
But A.Z. and her parents knew that her First Amendment rights could not be postponed until she is in high school. So they contacted Alliance Defending Freedom, and last week, we filed a lawsuit against the Academy. A.Z.’s case is just the latest in a long line of cases that we have filed in recent years to protect the precious First Amendment rights of younger students. These are bright, outstanding students who are passionate about their faith and want to share it with their friend at school. They take to heart Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4: “don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.”
By God’s grace, we have obtained victory after victory after victory after victory after victory for these courageous students. And the message is getting out: more and more schools are realizing that they can no longer get away with censoring the speech of younger students. But as the A.Z. case shows, we must remain vigilant and continue to fight. Because no child should ever be told that they have to wait until they are older to share their faith at school.
This post originally appeared here.