Thursday, January 12, 2017

ACLU of Georgia: Juvenile Rights

This is the fifth post in a series about the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Records, which were processed in 2015 and are now open for research. These records document the ACLU of Georgia's litigation, lobbying, and public education efforts to protect civil liberties for all Georgians. Their work, which began in 1963, involves issues such as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process of law, and opposing discrimination against many groups. This series of posts was written by Shaniqua Singleton, a student at the UGA School of Law, who was instrumental in processing these papers.

Cover of publication, "Student Rights &
Responsibilities in Georgia," undated.
Source: Series II, Box 38, Folder 7.
Adolescents are constantly exposed to signals from their families, communities, friend-groups, and media that influence how they develop and interact with the world around them. Like adults, adolescents may find themselves engaging in a range of activity in response to and as a result of these influences. Thus, they may choose to stage a demonstration in response to societal events. They may engage in criminal or otherwise illegal behavior. They may choose to distinguish themselves by their manner of dress or hairstyle. The ACLU believes students and juveniles, like adults, have certain constitutional rights that must be protected. The ACLU believes that if adolescents are expected to know their constitutional rights as adults, it is important to uphold those rights while they are young. The ACLU of Georgia Records highlight both legal challenges and legislative initiatives aimed toward protecting students’ and juveniles’ rights.

In 1996, the ACLU of Georgia addressed the issue of the detention of juveniles suspected of violating the criminal law. In A.M. v. Martin (1996-1998), the ACLU brought a case against Jay Martin, in his capacity as Court Administrator of the Fulton County Juvenile Court and Child Treatment Center, and Zell Miller, in his capacity as Governor of Georgia, on behalf of juvenile offenders held in warrantless detention for a maximum of 72 hours. Arguing that juveniles are entitled to constitutional guarantees of due process and fair treatment in the criminal justice system, the ACLU’s records feature several briefs filed before the courts in this matter. These documents provide useful insight into the development of legal arguments and factors considered by the courts as they entered judgments in this matter.

Cover of handbook, "Your Rights in School
and in the Community," 1996.
Source: Series II, Box 45, Folder 9.
The ACLU of Georgia also has challenged school dress code policies on behalf of students suspended for violation of said policies, such as Tillman v. Gwinnett County Schools. In Series II. Issues, researchers will find correspondence from prospective clients and concerned citizens regarding school dress policies, and legal documents filed in court challenging “zero tolerance” dress codes. Other cases have focused on free speech rights of students, such as J.U. v. Murray County, the right to form student groups, such as PRIDE v. White County Schools related to a student support group for LGBT youth, and illegal searches, such as Thomas v. Clayton County School District.

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