The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on Thursday honored high school students from South Portland and Lewiston for their efforts to preserve constitutional rights.

The seven students were recognized in a ceremony at the Lewiston campus of the University of Southern Maine, according to a news release.

Lily SanGiovanni, Gaby Ferrell and Morrigan Turner wrangled for months with faculty leaders and administrators at South Portland High School over their proposal to inform students that saying the Pledge of Allegiance is optional under state and federal law.

Their effort stirred community opposition and drew national attention, eventually resulting in a new procedure for the daily morning ritual.

Kalgaal Issa, Chandler Clothier, Iman Abdalla and Muna Mohamed successfully fought for their right to hang a #BlackLivesMatter poster at Lewiston High School in the wake of racially charged riots and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

They also helped to lead a protest march to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality.

“These students are an inspiration for their brave stands on behalf of civil liberties,” said Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine.

“Not only were they successful in their efforts, but their conviction to publicly share their stories means that other students in Maine seeking social change will have role models to look up to.”

The students received the organization’s Baldwin Award, which is given annually to a group or activist that has made a distinguished contribution to the protection and promotion of civil liberties in Maine.

The award is named for Roger Baldwin, an ardent activist for social justice who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and served as its director until 1950.

“These seven students in Lewiston and South Portland were willing to tackle important civil liberties issues in spite of the controversy their actions generated,” said Susan Peck, president of the ACLU of Maine.

“The ACLU is so excited to honor their work and to recognize their courage in speaking out for what is right.”

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