High school censorship in brief

Administrators seek dismissal of lawsuit over basketball players' petition OREGON -- School administrators asked a federal district court in June to dismiss a First Amendment lawsuit stemming from the suspension of eight members of the Clatskanie High School basketball team in 2001.Administrators filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment with the court to dismiss the remaining claims against them after a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that the players' boycott of an away game was not constitutionally protected speech.The team members were suspended after boycotting the game in February 2001. Earlier that day they had submitted a petition to the school's principal complaining that their coach, Jeff Baughman, was verbally abusive and asking for his resignation.After their suspension, the students filed a lawsuit claiming they had been punished for complaining about Baughman, a violation of their First Amendment rights. The district court ruled in favor of the administration. However, on appeal, the 9th Circuit panel ruled in early May that student members of the team had participated in constitutionally protected speech when they signed the petition. The panel also ruled that the players' boycott was not protected because it ''substantially disrupted and materially interfered with a school activity,'' remanding the case back to the district court.The administrators claim the decision to suspend the players resulted solely from their refusal to board the bus and play in the away game, and thus they did not violate the students' First Amendment rights.If the motion is denied, the case is expected to go to trial in January 2007. Case: Pinard v. Clatskanie Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 964 (9th Cir. 2006)Appeals court rejects request to rehear anti-gay T-shirt caseCALIFORNIA -- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 31 denied an appeal for the full court to hear the case of a student who was prohibited from wearing a T-shirt with anti-gay statements.The appeal followed a 2-1 9th Circuit panel decision in April in favor of the Poway Unified School District in Poway. In April, the panel found administrators at Poway High School did not violate Tyler Harper's First Amendment rights when they banned him from wearing a T-shirt that read ''Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned,'' on the front, and ''Homosexuality is shameful,'' on the back.Harper was a sophomore in April 2004 when he wore the controversial T-shirt in response to a Gay-Straight Alliance club's ''Day of Silence'' at his school. He was asked to remain in the office for the remainder of the school day, but was not suspended. He responded by filing a lawsuit against school administrators, claiming they had violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. A federal district court initially upheld Harper's First Amendment claims, but the 9th Circuit panel overturned the lower court's decision. Harper's final option is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case; that petition must be filed within 90 days of the 9th Circuit decision. Case: Harper v. Poway Unified School Dist., No. 04-57037 (9th Cir. Apr. 20, 2006), petition for reh'g en banc denied, 2006 WL 2103580 (9th Cir. July 31, 2006).District to appeal

Fall 2006, reports