Youth Joins Fight for Free Speech

When she was a 15-year-old sophomore and high school honor student, Malia Fontana watched a classmate being ordered to remove an American flag bandana he wore, when many students were wearing American, Mexican, or other flags as statements about the country’s immigration debates.

Malia felt the discipline violated the rights of youth, and the next day, she wore a small American flag in her back pocket. An assistant principal insisted she remove the flag and wrote up a disciplinary charge that could have stayed in Malia’s untarnished school file well after she graduated.

Upon the advice of her conservative USMC grandfather, Malia and her mom contacted the ACLU. We took up the case, and the matter was settled without litigation, with the school expunging all records of the incident from her file.

For her consistent and brave support of young people’s rights, the ACLU Board of Directors awarded Malia with its first Outstanding Civil Libertarian Under 30 award. The prize is given to an individual under 30 who has performed an act of courage or extraordinary service in the cause of civil liberties.