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I ♥ Boobies! Bracelet Ban Stays in Place: WI District Court Denies End to Sauk Prairie Ban

8 Feb

This week a federal district court judge denied a request by the ACLU of Wisconsin and cooperating attorneys to end a ban on “I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelets at the Sauk Prairie Middle School. The decision described “I Boobies!” as a “vulgar and sexually provocative statement” despite the educational context of the Keep A Breast foundation’s national campaign.

We blogged about this lawsuit last year when the lawsuit was originally filed. We asserted that student free speech should include the right to wear these breast cancer awareness bracelets. “I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelets are a part of a national campaign by the Keep A Breast Foundation. The rubber bracelets are similar to other bracelets that promote awareness of health or social issues and are geared to educate young women about the need for breast cancer research, education and early detection of the disease.

“Our middle school client is dedicated to effectively and constructively educating her peers about breast cancer,” said Attorney Tamara Packard. “It is disappointing that this decision will leave in place a ban on student speech that conveys our plaintiff’s belief that breast cancer is a critical women’s health issue of our time. The very purpose of the bracelets is to educate other young people about cancer prevention, testing, research and treatment.”

While the decision recognizes that students’ rights to free expression must be protected, it leaves too much discretion in the hands of school boards and administrators to punish controversial student expression by relying on a too-subjective and vague definition of “vulgar, offensive or inappropriate.” In the future, schools may punish students arbitrarily based on nothing more than a hypersensitive principal’s “I know it when I see it” notion of vulgarity rather than on an objective standard for free speech.

The Wisconsin suit was filed in September, 2011 on behalf of a middle school student at Sauk Prairie Middle School who along with many classmates wore an “I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelet to school for months without incident before the school district banned them. Last year, a federal district court in Pennsylvania stopped a ban on the bracelets and issued an opinion that the bracelets could not be considered lewd or vulgar. In B.H. v. Easton Area School District decision, as in the Sauk Prairie M. S., school officials failed to present evidence that the bracelets had or would cause a disruption at the school. The Pennsylvania case is facing an appeal by the school district. The ACLU of Wisconsin and the Sauk Prairie student plaintiff are evaluating their appeal options in the Wisconsin case.

You can read our press release on this decision on our website. You can also download and read the full U.S. District Court for Western District of Wisconsin ruling on K. J. vs. Sauk Prairie Middle School. This issue was covered in the Baraboo News Republic and the Wisconsin State Journal (while the text and author of the articles are the same, the comments sections of the stories are lively). The same week as the Wisconsin decision, the ACLU of Indiana filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of a Monticello, IN student. You can read more (and weigh in on the poll) in an article on the Huffington Post.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Selling your DVDs and CDs in Madison? Police Want Your Photo and to Know What You’ve Been Watching

16 Sep

The Madison city council’s Public Safety Review Committee met on Wednesday to consider a change to the law governing the licenses of secondhand dealers. The ordinance change would create an electronic reporting system where secondhand dealers, such as used bookstores or pawn shops, would report daily to police what was sold and would include a digital picture of the person who brought in the items. The list includes things like jewelry and electronics but it also includes recorded materials such as CDs, DVDs and audiobooks.

Whenever a change to this law comes up, the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Madison Area Office pays attention. In 2007, a campus-area alder suggested that used book dealers report their book buy-backs to police after a rash of textbook thefts. Bookstores objected saying that the reporting would be burdensome and costly. Police said they needed more tools to fight crime. The idea of electronic reporting came back in 2009 when Madison police held a listening session with stakeholders and explained the need for modernization but also heard concerns about data security, cost and customer privacy.

This proposal is an example of how whenever the government has access to a list of what we read or what we watch or the websites we visit, the ACLU must respond. Remember how librarians fought back when the Patriot Act would have required them to offer our library records for inspection? They protected our right to read because it was a core privacy issue. Our choice to posses any expressive material, be it a book or a CD or a film on DVD, is something we may choose to keep private. Especially if that material is controversial.

Government inspection of lists of such materials, even after they have been sold to a secondhand dealer, can create a profile of an individual’s personal selection or possession of intellectual or entertainment choices. We have a First Amendment protected tradition in this country to allow people to pursue and exchange information anonymously, even if that information is controversial. The only exception to this is in the realm of child pornography, although in the surveillance culture of post-9/11 America, the government now labels some information sharing as suspicious activity. The infrastructure for intelligence gathering has grown exponentially in the past ten years and our government literally has more data than it knows what to do with despite the estimated 2,000 private companies it has hired to data mine all of the cell phone records, suspicious activity reports and other bits of surveillance it has gathered from innocent people in the homeland. Our government does not need another database to spy on our personal choices.

Also whenever the government imposes on the First Amendment or the privacy rights of individuals, it has the responsibility to prove a compelling justification for that imposition. Police say theft, particularly related to drug use, justifies the need for this database. But requiring secondhand dealers to maintain electronic records and digital photographs of media sales specific to sellers and turn those records over to police daily treats all customers as potential criminals without suspicion that any particular person has stolen the CDs, DVDs, audiobooks or other media. The best way to balance fighting crime and protecting privacy is through individualized investigations by police who obtain warrants to search dealers’ own records. Database hacking or fishing expeditions or through electronic lists of who sold what would become easier and no less unacceptable under this proposed ordinance change.

Madison residents should ask their Common Council Alder to support an amendment that exempts “audio tapes, compact discs, laser discs, records, videotapes, digital video discs, portable media players or other similar audio or audio-visual recording devices,” “computer games” and digital pictures of customers who sell them from the daily electronic reporting to local police. Such an amendment would allow secondhand dealers and the city to comply with state law without compromising innocent people’s rights to privacy and freedom to exchange expressive materials.

Read the proposed ordinance online.

Madison residents can find their city council representative’s contact information on the city’s website.

While thinking about controversial materials, remember that September 24 through October 1 is Banned Books Week. We take one week out of the year to acknowledge how the work to defend our right to privacy and our right to read happens 365 days a year. Join us in Madison for a Banned Books Week kick off happy hour at Mickey’s on Friday, September 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. We will co-host a reading of banned books at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee on Wednesday, September 28 with a reception starting at 6:30 p.m. Both events are free, but donations are welcome.

Student Free Speech Includes “Boobies” Bracelets: Lawsuit Filed Against Sauk Prairie Middle School Bracelet Ban

8 Sep
I heart boobies bracelets

Keep A Breast Foundation's I heart Boobies Bracelets

Student free speech should include the right to wear breast cancer awareness bracelets, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation and cooperating attorneys today. The suit was filed on behalf of a middle school student at Sauk Prairie Middle School who along with many classmates wore an “I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelet to school and prompted a school ban.

“While a public school can put some reasonable limits on expression that poses a credible threat of a disruption of its educational activities or school mission, the mere discomfort some may have with the bracelets’ slang language is not a justification for banning the bracelets and punishing students who wear them,” said Attorney Tamara Packard.

“I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelets are a part of a national campaign by the Keep A Breast Foundation. The rubber bracelets are similar to other bracelets that promote awareness of health or social issues and are geared to educate young women about the need for breast cancer research, education and early detection of the disease.

The Sauk Prairie Middle School had deemed the term “boobies” to be inappropriate slang for the school setting. However, the term, especially in the context of the serious issue of breast cancer awareness, is not lewd, vulgar or indecent and should be allowed as a form of free student expression.

“It is the very social stigma of discussing women’s breasts that keeps breast cancer prevention, education and research from moving forward,” said Attorney Lori Eshleman, who is also a breast cancer survivor. “When nearly 40,000 Americans will die of breast cancer this year, we should engage in a national discussion about prevention rather than suppress young women’s speech that includes the term boobies.”

This spring a federal court issued an injunction stopping a similar bracelet ban and agreed that the “boobies” bracelets were not indecent or disruptive student expression. Pennsylvania’s Easton Area School District has appealed that decision.

The lawsuit against the Sauk Prairie Middle School comes after repeated requests for the school to drop the bracelet ban were ignored and rejected. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and cooperating attorneys hope the school will rescind the ban and allow this form of student expression without further legal action.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties and civil rights organization working to protect the rights of Wisconsinites. Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP is a well-respected full-service Madison law firm with a passion for the constitutional principles upon which our nation was founded, including free speech, equal protection, and participatory democracy.  Attorney Lori Eshleman specializes in health care and disability discrimination law at Traver, Haass & Eshleman.

For more on the work of the American Civil Liberties Union and Foundation of Wisconsin, visit our webpage. You can also get news and opinion on civil liberties in Wisconsin on our Forward for Liberty blog. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Breaking News: Belleville School Board Votes Unanimously to Keep Challenged Book in English Curriculum

25 Jan

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin applauds the Belleville School District in their unanimous decision to keep a challenged book in the ninth grade English curriculum. Tonight the school board demonstrated patience and courage to recognize the importance of both due process and the need for relevant and contemporary literature in the classroom. Over 200 community members attended the hearing: the majority wore green “Keep the Book” stickers in a show of support.


“It was inspiring to watch the Belleville community speak out against the book challenge and in support of their teachers,” said Community Advocate Stacy Harbaugh. “In the end, board members all agreed that peer-reviewed, modern selections of fiction are appropriate for their ninth graders and that options are available for parents who want alternatives for their children to read. We’re glad the board did the right thing to keep the book.”

The book in question was “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes” by Chris Crutcher, a work of young adult fiction that depicts teens who face contemporary problems including bullying. Tonight, the Belleville School District’s Board of Education heard testimonies from a parent who challenged the book’s place in the English curriculum on the basis of her religious beliefs and from district superintendent who defended the selection of the book by addressing the claims made by the book challenger. Students spoke in favor of the book and parents asked the board to keep the book as a part of their children’s education.

“The parents and the students who stood by their teachers deserve applause and recognition too” added Harbaugh. “During this fall semester when the book was being challenged, the book was being closely read, parents were talking to their children about their education, and students were learning about intellectual freedom. What a great learning experience for all.”

The ACLU works to defend First Amendment principles, such as supporting students and parents who want to defend an inclusive public school curriculum: authors have the right to free expression in what they write and all of us share the right to read books. We support Belleville Schools in keeping “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes” because all of their students should have an education that gives them the tools for critical thinking, including works of contemporary literature that is relevant and compelling to teens.

David Douglas from News 3 was on hand to cover the story. Read more on the Channel 3000 website or check out Douglas’ live tweets from the event @News3David.

Read more about the ACLU’s observation of Banned Books Week from 2011.

Other comments from the hearing
Many people thanked the English teacher for her grace in the line of fire and many thanked the parent who challenged the book for prompting the rigorous public discussion. Student Dylan Paris said that the book allowed him and his classmates to discuss real-life issues in the safety of a classroom. Parent Bob Smith said that when he asked his son what he thought of the possibility of a book removal he said, “are they crazy? This was the first book I read that meant anything to me.” Student Patrick Blair said that the characters in the book taught him to be humble because his daily experiences in Belleville are miniscule compared to what other teens face.

Other letters of support came in from Belleville high school graduates, students in college who had read the book at some point in the past eight and a half years that it had been taught, and other teachers who stood in solidarity with the staff. Mike O’Connor, Associate Principal for the Oconomowoc high school (speaking for himself and not on behalf of the school) wrote a letter in support of English teacher Peg Kruse. He said that upon hearing that there was a misguided attack on the curriculum, he was prompted to read the book for himself to form his own opinion. The book represented the actual and sensitive issues students face in high school and the author allows readers to draw their own conclusions. O’Connor said the book was compelling reading and that Kruse has a strong sense of selecting books that stir the soul.

Community member Sandy Walejko put it best by saying that “it was a great night for freedom. The decision is important and the board members are good people. Concerned parents have good intentions. This is not about good vs. evil: this is an example of the free speech that our country stands for and I’m glad good citizens are engaged in an open debate.”

The last word of the night was from the lively and irreverent student Lexi who was enthusiastic about reading the book for her English class. Said Lexi, “for a kid to actually get into a book? That’s the stuff!”

Fond du Lac School Rejects Book Challenge

19 Feb

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin applauds a book reconsideration committee of the Fond du Lac Theisen Middle School for voting unanimously in support of keeping a book from being banned from their school library this week.

“One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies” by Sonya Sones is recognized as being age-appropriate in youth literature peer reviews for 12-year-olds, an average age for sixth graders. According to a WISN-TV report, statements by the school librarian defending the book selection and a letter from the book’s author read by Superintendent Jim Sebert were among the majority of support given to keeping the book in the library collection. Sones is no stranger to controversy as some of her other publications have been on the banned books list in the past.

The ACLU of Wisconsin also recognizes the bravery and leadership of 13-year-old Shelby Berg for originally suggesting the book be added to her library and for defending the book in the recent challenge. The effort to protect peer-reviewed, age-appropriate youth literature in Fond du Lac is not over: six more titles will be individually considered by the committee for withdrawal from the library shelves.

This weekend the ACLU of Wisconsin will honor West Bend, WI activists who successfully fought back censorship in their public library. The William Gorham Rice Civil Libertarians of the Year recognition will be awarded at the ACLU of Wisconsin Bill of Rights Celebration to the West Bend Activists for Free Speech who stood up to book burners and censorship in their community.

The story got video coverage on FOX WLUK-TV in Green Bay and an article in the Oshkosh Northwestern details the software system that is now in place for parents to restrict what books their children can check out. Other coverage included a preview article and a hearing summary article in the Fond du Lac Reporter.

For more resources on the field of youth literature and how to effectively address book challenges, please contact the Children’s Cooperative Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. For updates on book challenges and censorship issues in Wisconsin, contact the ACLU of Wisconsin or join the Banned Books Reading Club on Facebook.

Milwaukee ACLU Celebrates Banned Books

20 Oct

The scoop on the ACLU of Wisconsin’s October 14th Banned Books event in Milwaukee – written by our office manager and resident literature and poetry enthusiast, Angie Trudell Vasquez:

In 2007, the ACLU of Wisconsin organized a Banned Book Event in Madison but not in Milwaukee. The event in Madison was well-attended and we really wanted to do one here. This year I joined the Woodland Pattern Book Center Board of Directors and during one of my early meetings, I suggested we do a joint collaboration between the bookstore and the ACLU of Wisconsin. The culmination of brainstorming meetings and research resulted in one of the highlights of my tenure at my job with the ACLU of Wisconsin…


But “let me begin at the beginning” to quote Rudolfo A. Anaya’s “Bless me, Ultima,” #78 of the American Library Association’s 100 most frequently challenged books between 1990 to 1999.

I am a poet, a social poet. I found Woodland Pattern Book Center when I first moved to Milwaukee from Seattle in 2005 and I participated in their annual Poetry Marathon in the midnight hour. I knew Woodland Pattern would be a perfect place for a live reading and working with staffers Chuck Stebelton and Anne Kingsbury was easy. I also serve on the Riverwest Coop and Café finance committee and was able to secure a donation of the most heavenly pastries this side of the Rocky Mountains for our event. While my job at the ACLU of Wisconsin staffer usually involves financials and organizing, working on the details of a Banned Books Week event could combine my love of literature, my community involvement and our work to fight censorship.

With food, libations and location secured, now we had to come up with some readers who would bring the banned books to life. We agreed to approach a previous poet laureate Peggy Hong, local Alderman Nik Kovac, artist and renaissance woman Kiki Anderson, and the ACLU Student Alliance at UW-Milwaukee President Angela Lang. Woodland Pattern Executive Director Anne Kingsbury was to be a reader as well as myself. Our MC for the evening would be the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Emilio De Torre reading his original poem on banned books – check out the pictures on the Ode to a Banned Book blog post.

Now to the books! It wasn’t hard for anyone to decide what to read as the best books have been banned or challenged at one time or another. Peggy read from the “Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” by Gertrude Stein.


Nik read from James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”


And Kiki is shown below sharing the pictures from the “Night Kitchen” children’s book.

Angela chose to read from 1984, particularly in light of current controversies with government blanket surveillance since 9/11.


Mark Peterson, UW-Washington County Professor, blogger of The Motley Cow, among many other of his current endeavors, came and opened the event with his own true life experience with censorship (pictured below in Beatnik style to honor poets like Allen Ginsberg).


He delighted us with his anecdotes, grounded our event in the present, and reminded all 45 of us of that book burnings aren’t as far fetched as we may think they are in the 21st century.


I would advise readers to check out the American Library Association’s Banned Book page and see if one of their favorites is on the list and start their own Banned Book Club readings around the state or join us next year.

- Angie Trudell Vasquez

Ode to a Banned Book

20 Oct

At the Wednesday, October 14 Banned Books event at Woodland Pattern Book Center, ACLU of Wisconsin Youth and Program Director Emilio De Torre donned a costume in the spirit of Geoffrey Chaucer and welcomed the audience for an evening of live reading of banned books. His opening poem on the theme of censorship set the tone for the evening of humor and a celebration of literature…

“On behalf of Woodland Pattern Books and the ACLU of Wisconsin, welcome to our Banned Book Event. We are most pleased you soudry folk are here in support of intellectual freedom, to raise awareness of censorship — and to promote the free exchange of ideas.”

“turn over the leaf and choose another tale”
Ladies and Gentlemen, scholars, students and rogues,
I pray thy mercy for my New York brogue,
For although the guise of Geoffrey Chaucer I wear,
It is not MY dulcet tones that you’ve come to hear,
Nor my pinched verse, kitchen prose or gutter rhyme,
Rather, the immortal men and women who’ve taunted time,
With works of art, beauty and thought,
That even now influence what we’ve wrought,
Their printed words filling schools, libraries and nooks,
Brave drafters and authors of the printed word —- Books.

Sadly, some would have us burn our literary friends at the stake,
And force us to read only their unique take,
Denying young folk access to vital information,
Whilst wielding the torch of intellectual cremation.

And although some may balk and blow their fuses,
To see books writ to other Gods, reason, or Nine Muses,
Let us not to the marriage of true minds impede,
Our Bodies Ourselves, or Voltaire’s Candide.

Where’s Waldo, Scary Stories, Lord of the Rings?
Is NOW the time to purge pagan, agnostic and atheist things?
Strike from these lists Morrison, Chbosky, and Hemmingway,
You CANNOT censor a theme ’cause it’s black, brown or gay!

Schindler’s List, Beloved, & The Great Gatsby.
Lolita, Ulysses and Tango Makes Three,
Baby Bebop, Atlas Shrugged, Go Tell it on the Mountain!
Native Son, Winnie the Pooh, even the Maltese Falcon…

So I put it to all of you my dear friends,
To boldly our 1st Amendment rights defend,
We cannot let others rob parents of the right to decide
With loutish attempts at self-righteous libricide.

Over time and in other places,
McCarthy, Genghis Khan, the Spanish Inquisition,
Have sought to suppress thoughts,
And hold civil liberties in submission.

But if you’re inspired by the words that you hear,
And censorship makes YOU tremble with rage and with fear,
Then gift envelopes can be found in the rear,
5 dollars for students, otherwise 20 per year.

You can follow up on Emilio’s invitation to membership by joining the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Madison ACLU Celebrates Banned Books Week With Panel on Current Issues in Censorship

2 Oct

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation wishes to extend a special thank you to the speakers and supporters who participated in the Madison area Banned Books Week panel. Moderated by Wisconsin Public Radio host Jim Fleming, the panel had a lively discussion on current issues in censorship from the world wide web to the local library.

http://www.youtube.com/get_player
Our guest speakers:

Jim Fleming, the panel moderator, is a host for Wisconsin Public Radio. He majored in English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and has had a long career in public radio including work as a host of classical music programs and the award-winning To The Best of Our Knowledge.

Bob Bocher is a Technology Consultant in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. He works primarily with the state’s public libraries and with schools on such programs as BadgerNet, the state’s telecommunications network. Bob is a Fellow of the American Library Association’s Technology Office and developed the ALA’s Internet Access Principles and its position on Net Neutrality. Mr. Bocher has a special interest in privacy issues related to technology co-authored the book “Privacy in the 21st Century: Issues for Public, School, and Academic Libraries.

Erlene Bishop Killeen works part-time as the District Media Coordinator for the Fox Prairie Elementary, Stoughton Area School District. With 35 years of experience, her credits include: being named library media professional by WEMA and awardee of a Kohl Fellowship in 1998, a reviewer of professional and children’s literature and a member of the advisory board for Teacher-Librarian, membership on the committee that wrote the National Professional Teacher Certification Library Media Standards as well as the 2003 Caldecott Committee. She currently chairs the ALA Publishing Committee and is a member of the Stoughton Public Library Board. Erlene is the mother of two grown children who started watching The Simpsons at age 3!

Pamela Westby is the library director for the Middleton Public Library. Pamela has over 20 years of experience as a librarian in Sparta and Middleton, Wisconsin as well as in her earlier career in Minnesota where she experienced book challenges from patrons. She also teaches a course on public library administration for continuing education.>

Nationally, Banned Books Week is an awareness campaign sponsored by the American Library Association which celebrates the freedom to read and the right to open, accessible libraries. Banned Books Week was officially recognized from September 26 through October 3, 2009. The ACLU of Wisconsin also organized a reading of banned books at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee.

The ACLU works nationally to fight censorship and protect the freedom of expression, even when free speech is unpopular. This year, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation announced that it will be representing a supper club owner in Crivitz, WI who is in a dispute with police who confiscated the flag the man was flying upside-down as a form of protest. The ACLU of Wisconsin was also involved in supporting the librarians at the public library in West Bend, WI after books with gay and lesbian characters were challenged by local residents.

Nationally, the American Civil Liberties Union has joined a coalition of authors, publishers and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to urge a federal judge to reject a proposed settlement in a lawsuit over Google Book Search. The ACLU is concerned that the settlement will leave open the possibility that the browsing and readership history of digitized books on Google Book Search will not have privacy protections.

Celebrate Banned Books Week with the ACLU of Wisconsin!

10 Sep

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation will be recognizing Banned Books Week through several events across the state. Nationally, Banned Books Week is an awareness campaign sponsored by the American Library Association which celebrates the freedom to read and the right to open, accessible libraries.

“From the Internet to our local libraries, censorship is still a threat,” said Stacy Harbaugh, Community Advocate for the ACLU of Wisconsin. “While we read about high-profile conflicts that happen in Wisconsin, the reality is that teachers, librarians and journalists work every day to keep information accessible to the public. Banned Books Week recognizes their efforts.”

The ACLU works nationally to fight censorship and protect the freedom of expression, even when free speech is unpopular. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation recently announced that it will be representing a supper club owner in Crivitz, WI who is in a dispute with police who confiscated the flag the man was flying upside-down as a form of protest. The ACLU of Wisconsin was also involved in supporting the librarians at the public library in West Bend, WI after books with gay and lesbian characters were challenged by local residents.

Nationally, the American Civil Liberties Union has joined a coalition of authors, publishers and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to urge a federal judge to reject a proposed settlement in a lawsuit over Google Book Search. The ACLU is concerned that the settlement will leave open the possibility that the browsing and readership history of digitized books on Google Book Search will not have privacy protections.

Please join the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation for these Banned Books Week events:

ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation Banned Books Week Kick-off and Fundraiser
Tuesday, September 15, 7:00—8:30 p.m.
Goodman Community Center149 Waubesa Street Madison, WI 53704


Featuring special guests Michael Tyree, Director, West Bend Community Memorial Library and Maria Hanrahan, West Bend community organizer. These brave book defenders will share their story of a book challenge this year in West Bend, WI. The professionalism of the library staff and the efforts of community activists were crucial in defending a diverse library collection that is free and accessible to all community patrons. A $25, tax-deductible donation is encouraged.

Banned Books Week Panel, moderated by Jim Fleming, Wisconsin Public Radio host
Thursday, October 1, 6:00—7:30 p.m.
School of Library and Information Science—4th floor commons
Helen C. White Hall—600 North Park Street Madison, WI 53706

Featuring special guests Bob Bocher, Library Technology Consultant, WI Dept. of Public Instruction and two local librarians with experience working with public and youth library collections. The panel will discuss current issues in censorship including book challenges, net neutrality and free access to the Internet, and youth free speech rights. The event is free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by the School of Library and Information Studies at the UW-Madison.

Banned Books Talk presented by ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, Woodland Pattern Book Center, and Wisconsin Center for the Book
Wednesday, October 14, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Woodland Pattern Book Center720 E. Locust Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212

Join the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and Woodland Pattern Book Center for a celebration of beloved banned books. We’ll talk about censorship attempts in and around South East Wisconsin. There will be a short presentation and then we’ll read excerpts from the “hot” books. A reception begins at 6:30 p.m.

For more info on the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s work to protect free speech, read the news on our website. Read more about the national Banned Books Week on the American Library Association website.

Madison students speak up about age discrimination, radio show Sunday

4 Jun

One of the best parts of my job is when I get to talk to young people about civil liberties. It’s been a while since I’ve been in high school, but I seem to remember that anyone (I mean ANYONE) who would actually listen to my questions about my right to personal expression, religious freedom, the civil rights movement and more would be pretty cool. Little did I know that getting the chance to answer those questions would be even better.

Take the media history class at LaFollette High School. This Madison area classroom has spent the whole semester talking about the media: its role in American democracy, structures from the underground to the corporately consolidated, and how media impacts our lives and our political system. These students welcomed ACLU staffers to talk more about the First Amendment, the past 20 years of Supreme Court decisions that impact student expression rights, and what free speech means to them.

For their final project, the students are taking to the airwaves to bring what they learned about the media to the public. Wanting to pick a topic that was relevant to them, the students explored the issue of the appropriateness of the legal drinking age of 21. This led into a broader discussion of what it means to be an adult, what the law says, and how our society views the rights of young people.

The first installment of their project aired on the Madison community radio station, WORT 89.9 FM on Monday, June 1. You can find the show through the station’s archives – just scroll down to find the “Access Hour” on June 1st. The students got some experience on the microphone both live in the studio and through their interviews of their principal, the city mayor, insurance company reps, child development specialists and others who work with youth. They took phone calls and questions about youth rights and other young people got a chance to speak out about the discrimination they feel as they jump from one legal benchmark of becoming an adult to another.

The next time the students will be live on the air will be this Sunday, June 7 at noon on WTDY Talk Radio 1670 AM. You can go to their website to listen on-line too. Tune in and hear students exercise their freedom of speech as they talk about their rights. They will be taking questions on Sunday as well, so let them know that you are listening and support their project.

It was great to talk to them about the importance of free speech. It’s something that the ACLU is really famous for defending and being able to educate young people about the First Amendment is as fun as it is important. They all got copies of our Freedom FAQs (found on our ACLU of Wisconsin youth page) and more information on how they can get involved as student civil libertarians by finding us on Facebook.

For more information on the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s youth rights education program, contact Emilio in Milwaukee or Stacy in Madison.

– Stacy Harbaugh, ACLU of Wisconsin Madison Community Advocate

Censure issued to Marshfield Chief for comments on understaffed dispatch

13 Feb

Last month Marshfield Police Chief Joe Stroik was quoted in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune on his opinion regarding the Wood County Dispatch Center. Stroik made comments about how he thought some shifts were dangerously understaffed. On Tuesday, the Wood County Public Safety Committee approved a letter of censure be sent to the Chief for his comments.

With the letter of censure, the county’s lawyers are suggesting that the Chief’s comments could be used in court if someone sued the county for negligence. But we should all be asking why our local governments are fearing lawsuits more than taking action to fix public safety issues. The Chief’s opinion should be evaluated on the basis of professional standards rather than the potential for liability.

The reality of the legal aspect of this issue goes like this: “If plaintiffs’ counsel, such as the ACLU, introduced statements such as Chief Stroik’s in a civil rights case, the statements would still have to be evaluated for accuracy,” said Laurence Dupuis the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Legal Director. “On the other hand, if the Public Safety Committee tries to prevent the Marshfield Police Chief from pointing out what he believes are deficiencies in the dispatch service, it could be argued that the County is guilty of recklessness and therefore potentially liable for expensive punitive damages,” Dupuis continued.

“The ACLU of Wisconsin believes that residents who have had their constitutional rights violated should have their day in court. It also believes that when a county’s decisions are made on the basis of litigation strategy instead of professional standards, then the public is poorly served,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director, Chris Ahmuty.

Tell Congress to rein in DHS travel abuses; action on books to prisoners

8 Aug

Action Alert from the ACLU:
Tell Congress: it’s time to rein in travel abuses by the Department of Homeland Security

If you travel outside the United States, you can kiss your right to privacy, and perhaps your laptop, digital camera and cell phone, goodbye.

With no suspicion and no explanation, the U.S. government can seize your laptop, cell phone, or PDA as you enter the United States and download all your private information — including your personal and business documents, emails, phone calls, and web history. The Department of Homeland Security confirms that this is the official policy.

Tell Congress: it’s time to rein in travel abuses by the Department of Homeland Security.

What happens if you refuse to let the agents download your personal photos? Or if you have encrypted your private information? Then Border Patrol — which is now an agency of the Department of Homeland Security — can simply copy your entire hard drive or even take your device and hang on to it indefinitely.

Unfortunately, seizing laptops and cameras at the border isn’t the only travel security measure that infringes on our civil liberties.

Just last month, the U.S. government’s “terrorist watch list” surpassed one million names and is growing by over twenty-thousand names per month. The watch list includes the names of prominent people, like Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), plus hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans — many of them with common names like Robert Johnson and James Robinson. Your name might be on the list, but there’s no way to know for sure until you are delayed — or even detained for hours in a back room. If you discover your name is on the list, it’s nearly impossible to get off. It actually took an Act of Congress to get Nelson Mandela off the list. No joke. An Act of Congress.

These abuses have something in common: They make all of us into suspects, with no rule of law and no accountability.

It’s hard to know what surveillance-state bureaucrats will come up with next. For instance, many airports are using scanners that are so invasive that
they are like a virtual strip search! See-through body scanning machines are capable of showing an image of a passenger’s naked body. Security measures
like this are extremely intrusive — and should only be used when there is good cause to suspect that an individual is a security risk.

And recently, the TSA expressed interest in having every traveler wear an “electro-muscular disruption” bracelet that airline personnel or marshals could use to shock passengers into submission. Unless something is done, this plan may not be as far-fetched as one would think.

Traveling shouldn’t mean checking your rights when you’re checking your luggage. It’s time for some sanity when it comes to security. Please, speak out now.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
P.S. Many Americans don’t know about these travel abuses. Please forward this link on to anyone you know who travels and ask them to take action, too.

Action Alert from the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice:
Tell the DOC to allow “Books to Prisoners”
After recent news articles about the challenges Wisconsin Books to Prisoners are having in getting the Department of Corrections to allow their commercial agent, Rainbow Books, to be recognized as an approved vendor of books, there is a call out to the public to phone in their concerns about the ban.

Those concerned with the denial of books to Wisconsin inmates are encouraged by the WNPJ to call Governor Jim Doyle (608-266-1212) and John Bett, the DOC administrator (608-240-5104) to express their concern and objection to this ban. This appeal is about protecting the First Amendment rights of prisoners; freedom to speak includes the right to read.