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The ACLU of Utah Activist

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2013 Legislative Session - Week Two Update

10 February 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
This week was busy for the ACLU of Utah, as we worked with legislators on several issues concerning civil liberties.  

Wearing a Hoodie While Brown Does Not Mean You Are in a Gang

13 December 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
On December 16, 2010, West High School officials in Salt Lake City, Utah invited the Metro Gang Task Force into the school to conduct a gang sweep. Students identified, searched and interrogated by the police were mostly Latino/a or, in the case of Kaleb Winston, African-American.  He was targeted by his school and by the Task Force as a potential gang member, searched and accused of being a tagger. As an artist, Kaleb had a notebook full of drawings in a backpack manufactured to look like it had been spray-painted. But because graffiti is loosely defined, if at all, the police decided Kaleb was a “gang tagger” despite his denials. Kaleb was then forced to hold up a sign with the words “My name is Kaleb Winston and I am a gang tagger.” Law enforcement officers told him that this information was being placed into a database and that the information would be removed if he did not get into trouble for two years. Kaleb was emotionally devastated by the experience. He is not and has never been in a gang. Yet, his attendance at school that day, not bad behavior, made him the subject of intense police scrutiny and…

Davis School District Sued for Removing Children’s Book About Lesbian Parents from Library Shelves

12 November 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
November 13, 2012 -  The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah filed a lawsuit against the Davis School District after elementary schools in the district were instructed to remove a children's book about a family with same-sex parents from library shelves.

ACLU of Utah is Looking for Parents of Elementary Students in Davis School District

06 August 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
If you or someone you know is the parent of a child in one of Davis School District elementary schools listed at the end of this post, we'd like to hear from you.   As you may recall, we've been investigating the District's removal of the book "In Our Mothers' House" from the shelves of school libraries and requiring parental permission to check it out. For school administrators to place restrictions on a library book because they disagree with its message is viewpoint discrimination, and violates the First Amendment.  We would like to speak to parents with children at Parkside Elementary School in Clinton, Windridge Elementary School in Kaysville, Snow Horse Elementary School in Kaysville or South Weber Elementary School in South Weber, where the book was removed. Our conversations will be confidential.  Please call John Mejia at (801) 521-9862 x.108 or email us at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   

Disservice to Teens

14 March 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Adolescence. We've all been there, and we would bet that most everyone remembers how awkward it can be. Hormones transform bodies. And suddenly there are a lot of questions about sex. Telling teens "just don't do it," and gagging our teachers so they can't even answer questions, will not stop young people from seeking out the answers on their own.  Unfortunately, the information they cobble together is often uninformed, ill-advised, or downright wrong. Our Legislature just passed a bill that says that's the best we can do for our young people. But they're wrong.

Disservice To Teens

11 March 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Published in the Salt Lake Tribune, March 13, 2012 >> Adolescence. We've all been there, and we would bet that most everyone remembers how awkward it can be. Hormones transform bodies. And suddenly there are a lot of questions about sex. Telling teens "just don't do it," and gagging our teachers so they can't even answer questions, will not stop young people from seeking out the answers on their own. Unfortunately, the information they cobble together is often uninformed, ill-advised, or downright wrong. Our Legislature just passed a bill that says that's the best we can do for our young people. But they're wrong. Our students are best served by programs that educate and inform, not ones that dangerously limit information and mislead. They deserve education that provides them with balanced and accurate information, and supports them so they can make healthy and responsible decisions in life. The truth is that we can't be with our children all the time, but we can make sure that our schools give our students the tools they need to make informed and healthy decisions as they grow into adults. If you think that sounds like a good idea, you're not alone. The overwhelming…

Start a GSA Today

03 November 2011 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Imagine if there were a group of students more likely than their peers to be depressed. Imagine if they were more likely to be bullied, to get low grades, to be suicidal. Imagine if they were ultimately more likely to be victims of violence.  For young people who are harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, these things aren’t hard to imagine. That’s because they’re unfortunate daily realities for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students — and for straight or gender-conforming students who are perceived as LGBT. When school days are spent hearing homophobic slurs or avoiding transphobic bullying, it’s hard to study, to make friends, to be happy, or even to feel safe. It’s even harder when you’re trying to do it all alone.  Now imagine there’s a way to help those students.

I Am Troy Davis

21 September 2011 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Last night, Georgia strapped down an innocent human being and forced lethal poison into his veins until he died. In your name; in my name, unashamed and unhesitating.

The ACLU of Utah Legislative Activist Blog: Immigration Reform in Utah

24 January 2011 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Monday, January 24, 2011 marked the beginning of the 59th General session of the Utah State Legislature. The opportunities that rest in the hands of our elected officials are extraordinary. What happens during this general session of the legislature will affect people’s lives for years to come. The question is whether that effect will be positive or negative  

My view: Fair trial integral to American values

20 June 2010 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
My view: Fair trial integral to American valuesBy Darcy Goddard Originally published in the Deseret News, Monday, June 21 2010 >> No matter what you think of the death penalty, we can all agree that capital cases are riveting. They're like a seven-car pileup on the highway; we just can't look away. This past week, Ronnie Lee Gardner became the third person since 1976 to be executed by firing squad in this country. His case generated a worldwide media frenzy, intended to captivate us all. And so it did. But by Friday, June 18, the morning after the execution, the fact of Gardner's death began receding from our collective consciousness. We are unlikely to consider it again, if ever, until the next execution-related media frenzy. We pay much less attention to smaller, non-death cases or even to potential death cases that end in acquittals. How many of us even knew, for example, that another (formerly capital) Utah murder defendant, Wade Maughan, was fully acquitted last week? The press covered every stage of Gardner's impending death. By contrast, they hardly addressed Maughan's acquittal, which was awarded despite a lengthy 2005 videotaped "confession" by the defendant. Missing almost completely was any discussion…

Utah Activists Form Group to Oppose the Death Penalty

09 June 2010 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
The ACLU recognizes that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of civil liberties and violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. There is also a growing public concern that the nation’s death penalty system lacks fairness and reliability, a concern fueled by the increasing number of exonerations of those who were on death row across the country. Many of these exonerations were made possible by the relatively recent advances in DNA and other scientific testing. Recognizing that capital punishment is not only costly but has also failed to deter crime, more than a dozen states have abolished the death penalty over the last several years. Increasingly, families of murder victims, the faith community, law enforcement officials, attorneys, and sensible individuals of all political stripes are coming together to oppose this system. For over a year, activists and organizers have been meeting regularly to discuss how to best address death penalty issues in Utah and decided to form an official coalition. The group, Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (UTADP), of which the ACLU of Utah is a founding member, is a statewide coalition of secular and religious organizations, as well as concerned individuals dedicated to…

Death Penalty Unconstitutional, Says Justice Stevens

09 May 2010 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
On Wednesday, May 5, 2010, retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens gave an interview at the annual conference of the 5th Judicial Circuit in Chicago, and explained his changed view on the death penalty. In 1976, Justice Stevens was among the majority opinion in Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court decision that found the death penalty does not violate the Eighth or 14th Amendments, thereby reinstating it. But at Wednesday's event, he explained his change of heart. Read more >>