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June 22, 2017

The ACLU of Virginia applauds Hopewell City Public Schools for creating a limited public forum space where students can have access to both religious and secular materials, an appropriate response following a recent news report on the distribution of the Gideon Bibles at Hopewell public schools, which has raised serious concerns from parents for violating the separation of church and state.

The First Amendment protects the rights of all students to have access to both religious and secular materials in schools. In our June 22 letter to the HCPS superintendent Melody Hackney, we stressed the importance of including a variety of materials from all types of faiths, organizations, and viewpoints for its students to review. We also remind the school division that it’s unconstitutional to censor content in a limited public forum based on viewpoints. “All information or speech that is not inappropriate, disruptive, or could interfere with existing school-sponsored activities, should be approved,” wrote the letter.

Last, we offered to contribute our “Know Your Rights at School” guides to HCPS’s space designated for resource materials, so that all students of HCPS can learn about their rights and speak up when these rights are violated.

You can read the full letter in the attached document below: