KIDS IN COURT: The ACLU Defends Their Rights by Sam & Beryl Epstein Epstein

KIDS IN COURT: The ACLU Defends Their Rights

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ten meaty and riveting accounts of court cases, many ending up in Supreme Court, in which the American Civil Liberties Union defended the rights of minors. The cases are preceded by an enlightening introductory chapter on the ACLU's history, founder, principles, and criteria for taking on a case. Most of the cases pit students against representatives of their public schools, which the ACLU recognizes as, while in session, ""closed institutions"" (like prisons and mental hospitals) in which the inmates are confined by force and have little or no control over their lives. Adults will recognize several cases from newspaper accounts: the free-speech victory of high school Vietnam War protesters who wore black armbands to school; the ""right to privacy"" ruling against a ""potential drug abuse"" test that would classify eighth graders on the basis of family, social, and personal qualities; the New Jersey girl investigated by the FBI for writing to the Socialist Labor Party on a class assignment. (An address mixup sent the letter to the Socialist Workers' party, which was under mail surveillance.) A heartening aspect of this last case is that the school officials were the first to recognize the violation of her rights. Most moving and outrageous is the obviously racially tinged strip-search of a Bayside, New York, high school girl who was not told the object of the search (nothing was found, though the searcher claimed in court that she had spotted a marijuana pipe) and who cried whenever she had to recall the offense. This case was complicated by the jury's inconsistency and clear misunderstanding of the issues. Without seeming to digress from the narrative, the Epsteins keep the issues clearly in sight throughout the accounts, so that irrelevant considerations which often cloud such controversies don't intrude. (The searched girl was guilty of staying inside during a fire drill, and she had been caught smoking marijuana on a previous occasion; two boys denied due process had made the obscene phone call that got them arrested; the off-campus kids' newspaper that high school authorities tried to kill had no literary or journalistic value.) Another important point the Epsteins make clear is that these battles are never won once and for all. Appropriately, the Epsteins end by affirming that it is important for young people to know their rights and protest their violation. This book should contribute to that awareness, and getting kids to read it won't be a problem.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1982
Publisher: Four Winds