By: Heather Smith, Executive Director, ACLU of South Dakota

This week the Argus’s Stu Whitney opined about Watertown High School’s all-white homecoming court dress up in Indian costumes. Failing to see the harm, the District rationalized that they were “honoring Native American culture” with its school tradition – despite feedback from Native Americans who pointed out that they did not, in fact, feel honored.

In the same week, another Sioux Falls high school was also celebrating homecoming, in part by hosting   “Gender Swap Day.” This is an apparently popular school tradition steeped in gender stereotypes: boys are supposed to wear “girls” clothing and girls are supposed to wear “boys” clothing. The event is intended to encourage school spirit during homecoming, but the result was more harm than amusement. 

Calling all students: it's pop quiz time! Let's find out if you know your religious freedom rights at school. Imagine the following scenario: an assembly is about to take place at a local public school. It features a youth minister who preaches to students and a rock band playing religious songs. Several atheist students feel uncomfortable going to the assembly because it will include prayer. Their teacher tells them they can just watch a movie during the assembly period instead.

 What a fabulous way to wrap up Pride month!

The news was impossible to miss: Last week the Supreme Court declared state marriage bans to be unconstitutional, in a historic win for equality. The ACLU of South Dakota, with help from The Center for Equality, hosted a pop-up celebration in downtown Sioux Falls for the landmark win for marriage equality. We wanted to be the first to hand out wedding cake and offer our congratulations to the couples whose marriage will now be recognized in all 50 states.

By: Chelsea Gilbertson, ACLU Intern

On Saturday, the ACLU of South Dakota team was on hand for the 2015 Sioux Falls Pride festival, hosted by The Center for Equality. Our booth welcomed festival goers with stickers, buttons, Know Your Rights pamphlets, and the infamous PRIDE frame. We had a blast celebrating love, equality, and the Sioux Falls area LGBT community!

Girls are required to wear dresses. Boys are required to wear pants.

That statement may sound like it's coming from 1950, but some school districts across the United States have tried to enforce antiquated dress codes telling students exactly how they should dress for their high school graduations. They require girls to wear dresses or skirts and boys to wear pants. This is more than just a throwback to a bygone era; it's an unlawful gender-based distinction.

Each year, the South Dakota Legislature convenes in January and works through March crafting, debating, and passing laws governing our state. Throughout its history, the ACLU of South Dakota has kept tabs on the goings-on in Pierre. This year, we decided to send our Policy Director as a full-time lobbyist to represent the ACLU and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties.

It's not often that we get to talk about major civil liberties victories after the legislative session, but with hard work and determination we saw lots of bad bills go down in flames!

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