Center for Individual Rights joins anti-censorship groups in criticizing plans to censor speech in high schools

A major advocate for free speech is protesting plans by four high schools in Virginia to change their school-policy definitions of the terms harassment and bullying, a measure that could result in widespread censorship.

To help its cause, the Center for Individual Rights, or CIR, sent letters to the school board at Battlefield High School, C.S. Shirlington High School, Glen Allen High School and to the U.S. Department of Education, asking the department to launch an investigation into whether the four districts were trampling the First Amendment.

“While we applaud Arlington and Alexandria for being leaders in diversity, we are concerned that in their haste to rid their schools of anti-social bullying and attacks on transgender students, Arlington and Alexandria may be excluding them or questioning their right to free speech,” CIR senior counsel Chris Yoo said in a statement released late Monday.

“High schools need a full environment, which includes the right to speak and express their ideas,” Yoo said. “Students also have a right to feel safe in school, including the right to not be subjected to harassment and intimidation.”

The district, known for being politically liberal, faced heat last spring when it voted to remove its mascot, the Indian mascot, from their campus.

According to CIR, the groups are offering a joint letter, in which they outline how many attempts were made to censor books and other school materials on their campuses between 2002 and 2017.

“We want this investigation to preserve the right of all students to be exposed to all viewpoints and critical perspectives in their learning environment, regardless of their race, creed, orientation, or religion,” CIR says.

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