ACLU provides political awareness by hosting Activist Academy

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is finding ways to help educate the public on being an activist in their state.

The organization hosted a two hour Activist Academy tonight in Sioux Falls as we get closer to the legislative session.

Heightened political awareness is creating an interest at the state and local level. The ACLU is finding ways to educate those who may not know much about their state legislators.

Over the past few years the ACLU has been hearing from people who want to be more involved in the legislative process and want to learn how to talk to their elected representatives.

"So part of being a good advocate and an activist is making sure that you know your rights at protests and making sure that your rights are protected," ACLU Policy Director, Libby Skarin said.

"We really want to empower members of the community to understand their rights and to know how to advocate for themselves," Skarin said.

The crash course provided information on how the public can find and contact their elected officials and how a bill is passed. I spoke with one person who attended tonight and asked why she was there.

In 2015, South Dakota saw its first piece of anti-transgender legislation and in 2016, bill HB1008 was passed by the state legislature.

"I’m really passionate about LGBT human rights and I really want to learn about how I can take that passion and bring it towards my senator and representative for my district to make them be on the right side of history for us," Augustana student, Sarah Keefe said.

The bill would have banned transgender individuals from using the restroom of their choice, but was vetoed by Governor Daugaard.

The ACLU says those types of issues are what make tonight's event so important.

"We at the ACLU worked very hard and we oppose any efforts to discriminate or to segregate transgender kids from their peers," Skarin said.

Two memorable events happened in Libby Skarin's life in 2016.

"I got married and this bill was vetoed and that veto was the best day of my life," Skarin said.

That veto is a good example of why you should be in constant contact with your legislators.

The ACLU encourages everyone to speak out on the issues that matter to them.

Skarin tells me that politics and public policy has been an issue that a lot more people are interested in and they're seeing more people want to get involved.