Students can't talk about President-Elect Obama - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Pearl, MS 11/07/08

Students can't talk about President-Elect Obama

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By Julie Straw - bio | email

PEARL, MS (WLBT) - Teachers are prohibiting students from talking about President-Elect Barack Obama.  WLBT's newsroom has been flooded by calls and emails from angry parents in several cities.  These parents say their children were threatened with suspension if they said Obama's name or wore clothing that supports him.

A historic presidential election leading to the appointment of the United State's first African American President Barack Obama has everyone talking, but students at some Mississippi schools are being prohibited from doing just that. 

"It's like they've taken their rights way," said Natalie Taylor.  She decided not to show her face because she is afraid of retaliation against her son who attends Pearl Junior High School. 

"He told me he was warned by one of the teachers before school started that he could not mention the name because he would get in trouble," said Taylor.

Taylor's calls to the school principal have gone unanswered.  "I thought Mississippi had come a long way and for this to happen? It is unbelievable," added Taylor.

We received this statement from Superintendent John Ladner; "As adults and professionals we are not going to deprive anyone of their excitement over the current election of President-Elect Obama, or any other candidate.   The whole nation was excited, and in no way and at no time will children be disciplined for saying the name of the President-Elect of the United States.   Any employee who would attempt to do that would be corrected and disciplined.  We expect professional behavior, respect and demeanor of staff and students.  It is unfortunate that some employees mishandled this situation, but they have been disciplined and I have spent the day clarifying our policies."

"Racism at its best, that's really what it is," said Paula Loften of Magee.  She has two children in the Simpson County School District in Magee.  She is angry that students are not allowed to wear any clothing that supports the new President-Elect.

"One student was sent home to change because she had on a Barack Obama T-shirt and on the back it said "yes we can," said Loten.

Magee High School teachers read a memorandum in class the day after the election.  It stated, "Seeing history in the making and being a part of that process is a wonderful thing.  Many of you are excited because of this.  Others are not.  It is absolutely critical that we not use this election as a divisive event.  We should respect one another by not saying or doing things in the wrong way that would take away from this historical event and possibly cause a disruption here at school.  Celebrations at school that cause disruptions are not acceptable and against the law therefore, this should not occur.  Please by mindful of this and respect one another regardless of differences in opinion."  Simpson County school officials say a disruption on campus led to the statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is also expressing concern over violations of students' ffree speech.  The ACLU is encouraging students and parents to contact the group if they are subjected to or witness any form of restrictions on speech, discipline, or santions in response to protected speech activities.  Call (601) 354-3408 or 888-354-ACLU (2258).

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