The ACLU of Wisconsin vigilantly defends First Amendment rights in schools. We believe in an educated citizenry and a society where ideas are openly disseminated and discussed. And throughout our history, we have worked to protect the right to access information and the right to make up our own minds.

We are committed to monitoring and fighting the wave of classroom censorship attacks we have seen these past few years by local school boards across Wisconsin.

Freedom of speech in Waukesha schools

In July, 2021, the School District of Waukesha dissolved its Equity Leadership Team and introduced a policy forbidding political or controversial signage from being displayed on school grounds.

The ACLU of Wisconsin filed an open records request with the District after indications that its ban on political signage was being enforced inconsistently, in a way that was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

By allowing a pro-life student group sign, a ‘Thin Blue Line’ sign, a poster of Ronald Reagan, and football team locker signs while banning Pride flags, Black Lives Matter signs, and GSA locker signs, the District appears to favor one viewpoint over others.

Access to books in school libraries

In March, 2022, the Cadott school board voted to remove library books The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall and Protest Movements: Then and Now by Eric Braun, and to restrict access to Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders.

The ACLU of Wisconsin filed an open records request with the School District of Cadott Community as part of an investigation into the book ban reports. Our request stated:

“We urge the District to end policies and practices that suppress the free exchange of ideas and discriminate against viewpoints and representation of marginalized communities.”

In a victory for free speech and learning, the Cadott school board reversed its library book ban!

We also filed open records requests with six school districts on December 13, 2023 seeking information about the decision to remove books from school libraries.