Colorado Rights Blog


  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

After ACLU intervention, high school student suspended for off-campus internet posting is back in school

Littleton High School junior Bryan Lopez, who was suspended from Littleton High School for posting satirical commentary about the school on the internet, is now back in school after ACLU attorneys reached an agreement with school district officials on Monday evening. The agreement averted a federal court First Amendment lawsuit that ACLU attorneys were prepared to file on Lopez’s behalf on Tuesday morning.

“I am pleased that Littleton school officials were willing to resolve this dispute without a lawsuit,” said Hugh Gottschalk, an ACLU cooperating attorney whose firm worked over the 3-day weekend on Mr. Lopez’s case. “A student’s right of expression is protected by the First Amendment. School authorities have some ability to regulate students’ expressive activities on school grounds and at school-related functions. But school authorities do not have the right to impose discipline for statements that students make off campus, especially when, as in this case, those statements do not cause any material disruption of the educational process.”

“Mr. Lopez used his home computer to post his commentary on the web site on February 7,” explained Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. The message contained satirical commentary about the poor physical condition of Littleton High School, the behavior and demographics of students and staff, the perceived racial biases of teachers and administrators, and the poor quality of the resources available to students.”

Once posted, the commentary was not accessible to students from any school computers, because the school’s internet filters block access to Nor was the commentary accessible to the general public; it was available only to specific persons to whom Mr. Lopez had provided a password. “Apparently one of Mr. Lopez’s classmates accessed the website, copied the commentary, and then re-posted it on his own website,” Silverstein said.

A couple days later, Littleton High School administrators obtained a copy of Mr. Lopez’s satirical commentary. On February 10, they suspended him for five days on the basis of a school policy that forbids students from engaging in conduct, either on campus or off-campus, “that is detrimental to the welfare or safety of other students or district employees.” The school superintendent then added an additional 10 days to the suspension, to give administrators additional time to decide whether to begin proceedings to expel Mr. Lopez from school. He missed six days of school before the ACLU and the school district resolved the controversy.

“The school district deserves credit for agreeing to resolve this issue promptly, allow Mr. Lopez back in school, and remove all mention of the suspension from our client’s school record,” Silverstein said. “Although the ACLU had a lawsuit prepared to file on Tuesday morning, our client risked missing even more days of classes while we waited for the court to rule.”

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