NYRA Freedom

ISSN 1933-5229

Volume 7, Issue 4

April 12, 2007


Austria Lowers Voting Age
NYRA Participates in Free Speech Rally
NYRA Fights Criminalization of Drinking
New Book on Youth Rights
NYRA Fundraising Contest
Oblivion Essay Contest
News from the Web


It has been another good month for NYRA. The nation of Austria has lowered its voting age to sixteen, setting an important precedent for the rest of the world. NYRA participated in a students’ rights rally in front of the Supreme Court. NYRA also stopped a bill that would have criminalized underage drinking in Washington, DC. Youth rights is on the march all over the world, with progress on the voting age, drinking age, and student rights, now is the time to get involved, now is the time to make a donation to keep this engine of activism moving.

Austria Lowers Voting Age

On March 14th, the Austrian government decided to allow sixteen and seventeen year olds to vote in national elections. The effort to lower the voting age had the support of both the liberal and conservative parties in Austria. This is tremendously important, as the young people of Austria will prove to the world that lowering the voting age is a good idea. It will invigorate their democracy, and hopefully the United States will follow their example. In a letter to NYRA, Austrian ambassador Eva Nowotny wrote “We demand so much responsibility from the younger generation and load so many burdens on their shoulders that we feel it was the right thing to do.”

NYRA Participates in Free Speech Rally

A few years ago, a high school student named Joseph Frederick was punished for unfurling a banner that read “bong hits 4 Jesus” and subsequently quoting Thomas Jefferson to his principal. He sued, and won, but the principal brought the case to the Supreme Court. The principal (and her lawyers, who include Ken Starr) is essentially arguing that schools should have the right to silence all speech with which they disagree. This could include artistic speech, academic work, and discussion of political issues (such as youth rights or drug policy) where there is room for legitimate debate. The National Youth Rights Association strongly supports Joseph Frederick and the first amendment.

On March 19 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from each side. The National Youth Rights Association participated in and helped organize a Students for a Sensible Drug Policy led protest in front of the court. The rally was well attended, and NYRA members traveled from as far as Michigan to participate. Protesters held signs that read “free speech 4 students” as well as a large “free speech 4 students” banner designed to look like the “bong hits 4 Jesus” banner that caused all the controversy. There was a lot of media coverage of this event.

Throughout the United States, the rights of students in public schools are systematically violated. Students are subjected to drug tests, unreasonable searches, and censorship. School teachers and administrators treat Tinker V Des Moines, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed Constitutional rights in public schools, as nothing more than a nuisance that must be circumvented. If this pending Supreme Court case rules in favor of such an authoritarian administrator, this kind of unacceptable behavior could become the law of the land.

NYRA extends its sincere gratitude to all the members who attended the rally, particularly Kris and Devin, who traveled a great distance. NYRA also thanks the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy for their work in organizing the protest.

NYRA Fights Criminalization of Drinking

DC Councilmember Jim Graham recently introduced legislation regarding young people and nightclubs. Initially the legislation would have banned all people under 21 from bars and nightclubs in DC, and would have made underage drinking a criminal offence (it is currently a civil offense in the District of Columbia.) Under pressure from club owners and other interests, Graham changed his legislation to only prohibit people under eighteen from entering such establishments, and with several critical exceptions.

NYRA President Scott Davidson and Executive Director Alex Koroknay-Palicz attended a number of work sessions with Councilmember Graham and others to review and revise the legislation. NYRA was deeply concerned about the part of the bill that would make underage drinking a criminal offense. The club owners, on the other hand, wanted a tougher penalty because they were understandably concerned about facing punishment for young people drinking in their establishments. After a heated discussion, NYRA proposed a compromise, where underage drinking would remain decriminalized in all of Washington, DC except in licensed bars, clubs & restaurants. This compromise was incorporated in to the legislation. While it isn’t perfect, it is much better than what it was initially, and NYRA considers this a victory.

New Book on Youth Rights

A new book by Dr. Robert Epstein, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen, argues that young people are more competent than most people think. Epstein’s research led him to the conclusion that teenagers are essentially as competent as adults, and treating them as children just leads to behavioral problems. NYRA is very excited about this book, and expects it to enter the canon of important youth rights literature. Epstein has already attracted some serious publicity, and we hope that his work will continue to challenge our society’s preconceived notions about young people. This book should certainly end up on the bookshelf of any serious youth rights activist. For more information check out http://drrobertepstein.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=10&Itemid=29.

NYRA Fundraising Contest

NYRA’s annual fundraising contest, NYRAthon, is underway. The contest runs through June second, and prizes are awarded to the three individuals and the chapter that raise the most money. So far the contest has not yielded the results it has in the past, with only $530 coming in since March second. If you have any money that you are willing to donate, please visit http://www.youthrights.org/donate.php. NYRA needs money to keep its office, pay its staff, and continue fighting for youth rights.

Oblivion Essay Contes


Oblivion, a New York based youth rights organization with ties to NYRA, is having a youth rights essay contest. You can write an essay about any youth rights issue you are interested in. The author of the best essay will win $500. The deadline is August 15th. If you are interested in participating, please visit oblivion.net.

News from the Web

2007 Youth, 1970 Youth Policies

Parents call for ban on homework

13-Year-Old Arrested In School For Writing On Desk

Teacher accused of quieting students with clothespins

Study finds stable personalities unaffected by violent games

Judge: District Can’t Ban Student Speech

Mall Policy Draws Protest From Teens

Students rally for their rights

High School Pastafarian Suspended Over Eyepatch


We have a lot to be happy about this month. A new book will undoubtedly get more people thinking about youth rights and provide youth rights activists with more arguments and talking points. Thanks to NYRA, underage drinking will remain a civil offense in the District of Columbia under most circumstances. The voting age was lowered in Austria, and with any luck they will set a precedent for the rest of the world. Please make a donation to keep NYRA running and keep our youth rights victories coming. Donate here: http://www.youthrights.org/donate.php