Student Sues School for Censoring Her Criticism of Dairy—and Wins

Los Angeles student Marielle Williamson sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violating her First Amendment right to free speech—and won. 

Earlier this year, Williamson heard from her high school that she could not share information critical of the dairy industry without also providing positive dairy messaging—even though the school displayed pro-dairy posters and shared “Got Milk?” ads in the morning announcements.

Instead of accepting this, Williamson worked with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to file a lawsuit against the USDA and LAUSD.

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, LAUSD resolved the lawsuit by acknowledging that Williamson and other students had the right to question dairy products. Deborah Press, associate general counsel at PCRM, said in a statement:

This is a huge win for free speech advocates and for critics of dairy in schools who, until today, had been silenced by the threat of censure if there was a perceived criticism of dairy products.

The agreement mentions that dairy products are not only linked to various health problems but contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. PCRM is now working with LAUSD to offer dairy-free milk options to students. Williamson said in a statement:

I am very grateful we were able to reach an agreement with LAUSD that enshrines the free speech rights that led to challenging school policies. The changes ensure that other students who want to speak openly about dairy have the ability to do so.

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