ACLU makes push to change law that strips teen driving privileges based on school performance

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Posted at 4:44 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 20:08:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — The ACLU of Tennessee is pushing to change a law that puts high schoolers' driving privileges on hold, based on how they perform in school.

Under the No Pass, No Drive law, if a student drops out of school or fails to make good grades, the school is required to notify the Department of Safety. The student's driving privileges are then suspended.

The first time a student drops out, he or she may regain the privilege to drive by returning to school and making up the grades. There is no second chance, the student must wait to turn 18 years old before being eligible to apply for a license.

15-year-old Ana doesn't much about the law, but she is excited to start hitting the road soon, but she has her concerns.

“Just because people are unpredictable on the road,” she said.

High School students are learning the rules of the road this summer to get them all prepared for the day when they can get their driver’s license.

“We discuss the truancy law with our students and we like to get their opinion on how they think about it,” said Jeremy Lyon, owner of Brentwood Driver Training.

From July of 2018 to June of 2019 61,591 teens received their licenses, 1,930 were suspended and 640 were reinstated. In Davidson County there just 14 suspensions, 153 in Rutherford and the most in Knox County with 270.

“I think it's a good motivation because people want to drive, and some kids are bored at school, so going to school you get to drive I feel like that's a pretty good motivation,” said Ana.

ACLU of Tennessee is calling for a change to the law that's been around since the 90s.

“You want children to go to school, you want them to perform well in school - nothing about taking their ability to drive is going to ensure their attendance. In fact, it might have a negative effect on their attendance,” said Tom Castilli, legal director.

Castilli says the law could force more kids away from school and into trouble.

“If they choose then to drive and break the law because it's a necessity of life then they get pulled over, now they got a juvenile record, now they got a driving on a suspended license,” said Castilli.

Castilli is working with Dean Rivkin, an emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law and a long-time youth justice lawyer to change the law. Castilli is asking families to reach out to the ACLU if they know any teen that had their licenses suspended under this law,