What’s New & Next for Freedom of Speech in Montgomery County

A few weeks ago, we highlighted the inspiring story of tenth-grader Enidris Siurano-Rodriguez on our blog.

 

As you might remember, Enidris is an honor student at Damascus High School in Montgomery County and she, since the seventh grade, has quietly and respectfully abstained from standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, as a way of showing her disagreement with U.S. policies towards Puerto Rico, where her family is from. But she contacted the ACLU in April after facing harassment and intimidation by teachers and an assistant principal for exercising her freedom of expression.

 

In response to this violation of federal and state law, and even the county's own regulations, the ACLU of Maryland took action and demanded that Enidris be allowed to sit quietly during the Pledge, and requested a meeting with the Superintendent's staff and to discuss what steps will be taken to ensure that similar violations do not recur anywhere in the school system. Since 2005, the ACLU has received six complaints of students in Montgomery County Public Schools being harassed by teachers for declining to participate in the Pledge - more than any other county in Maryland.

 

Sadly, MCPS's initial response to our letter was dismissive, and denied that there was any real problem to address.  To press the school system to take meaningful steps to address this issue system-wide, the ACLU tapped into the social media storm that developed around Enidris and her story. Enidris was first thrust into spotlight when international artists like Ricky Martin and Calle 13 tweeted in support of her and the freedom of speech.

 

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Building on this, the ACLU put out a call and hundreds responded! People across the state and beyond emailed and tweeted Montgomery County Public Schools and Superintendent Starr to encourage them to sit down with the ACLU to discuss steps that can be taken to ensure teachers and administrators know about and understand the school system's strong policy on the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

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And it made a difference!

 

This week we heard back from the lawyer representing Montgomery County Public Schools, who indicated that the Superintendent's staff would meet with the ACLU, Eindris and her family. Undoubtedly, such a quick response from MCPS would not have been possible without all of the activists and supporters who stood up to defend the freedom of expression for students.

 

The ACLU is hopeful that the meeting will soon be scheduled and is looking forward to productive discussions with MCPS. Stay tuned! We will keep you updated throughout the process to ensure freedom of speech is protected in Montgomery County.

 

Written by Sana Javed, Communications Associate

 

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