CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Civil Liberties Union has criticized a Long Island school district for suspending students who walked out of class to protest budget cuts.

The NYCLU said in a letter last week to the Central Islip district that the students were exercising their constitutional rights and “should be praised for their idealism.”

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Superintendent Craig Carr told Newsday he had not yet received the letter and declined to comment.

Hundreds of students at Ralph G. Reed Middle School walked out of school on April 1 to demonstrate in front of the district’s administration offices.

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The NYCLU said it hoped the district would expunge the suspension from the students’ records.

It said the suspension sent a message that free speech is unimportant.

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