School board approves new policy for Duval students to exercise free speech on campus

DCPS has voted on a new rule surrounding students protesting.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – New rules are now in place for Duval County students who want to lend their voice to a cause during the upcoming school year.

On Monday, the school board approved a new policy that outlines how students will be allowed to exercise free speech on campuses.

In the past two years, students have led dozens of demonstrations covering racial equity, dress code, school name changes, and COVID policies. Because of that board members said outlining this policy and these rules is crucial for the upcoming school year.

When writing this new policy the school board wanted to make sure students’ rights are protected – whether they want to speak up, dissent and make their voices heard or sit out of an event as long as doesn’t interrupt their scheduled class time.

The gist of the new policy is spelled out in the first paragraph:

The new rules for student protests and demonstrations say the student organizer has to get written confirmation from the principal that the school can accommodate the protest – and that has to happen at least two days before the event.

This covers peaceful assemblies, protests and walk-out demonstrations.

The principal can also place “reasonable time, place, duration, and manner restrictions on the event.”

If a student creates a disturbance or interferes with school operations, they will face disciplinary action.

The policy also says that students cannot be harassed or bullied for participating or not participating in events. It’s up to the school’s principal to administer the new policy and make sure students know about it.

Not everyone was on-board with the new policy saying that parents need to be more involved.

“I kind of feel that changing that policy might not be in line with the parental rights law that’s in place, Duval County resident Ed Williams says. “I’m assuming that, unless the parents have some sort of input into their children cutting class to go to protests. I think it would be good to vote “no” on that.”

EDITORIAL NOTE: An earlier version of this article said the board vote was unanimous. It’s now been updated to reflect that board member Charlotte Joyce voted “no,” leaving the margin at 6-1.