Primary and Secondary Education

Article excerpt

Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights

Religious group sought court order forcing school district to allow participation in a "take-home flyer forum" made available to other community organizations. The group wanted to use the forum to circulate invitations to its after-school evangelical programs. The school district refused, claiming the group's participation in the forum would be an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment. Held: For the religious group. The school district could not exclude the group from its program based solely on its religious viewpoints. Since allowing the group to participate in the forum did not single it out for any special benefit not afforded other similarly situated groups, the district's prohibition was an impermissible violation of the group's First Amendment rights. Child Evangelism Fellowship of MD, Inc. v. Montgomery County Pub. Sch., 373 F.3d 589 (4th Cir. 2004).

Student association sued school district for violations of members' First Amendment rights and the Equal Access Act (EAA). The Lubbock Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA) sought permission from the district to post fliers on campus and use the PA system to promote their meetings. The district refused, citing a policy which banned all discussion of sexual activity, other than abstinence, by campus organizations. Held: For the school district. A school district may control sexual subject matter and prohibit indecent speech in a public school without violating the First Amendment. Moreover, the district acted within the EAA's bounds because it denied LGSA's publicity requests in order to maintain order and discipline on campus. Caudillo v. Lubbock Indep. Sch. Dist., 311 F. Supp. 2d 550 (N.D. Tex. 2004).

Teacher sued principal and school board for allegedly violating her right of free speech and association. A teacher had been reprimanded and disciplined several times in previous years for negative statements she made about her employment. After being fired, she alleged the termination was retaliation for publicly criticizing the principal. Held: For the principal and school district. The teacher was unable to show that her speech was a substantial reason for the disciplinary action that was taken against her. Smith v. Dunn, 368 F.3d 705 (7th Cir. 2004).

Teacher sued school board, asserting that its policy of random drug testing violated her Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures. The policy implemented random, suspicionless drug testing for all employees in "safety sensitive" positions. Held: For the school board. The high amount of regulation and the job responsibilities inherent in the teaching profession should leave teachers with a reduced expectation of privacy. Random testing is preferable because teachers and students are not obligated to report peers or mentors, and employees may not avoid detection by abstaining from drug use prior to scheduled testing. Therefore, since the testing policies ensured reliability, privacy, and confidentiality, the school board's implementation of random, suspicionless drug testing did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Cragerv. Bd. of Educ. of Knott County, Ky., 313 F. Supp. 2d 690 (E.D. Ky. 2004).

Parents of home-schooled children sued various schools alleging violation of constitutional rights. Home-schooled children were denied participation in extracurricular sports activities. Parents sued claiming that students' religious and due process rights were violated. Held: For the schools. Schools are not required to accept non-enrolled students because sports are permissive programs. There is no constitutional right to participate in sports. Since the parents chose to home school their children, there was no infringement on free exercise of religion. Reid v. Kenowa Hills Pub. Schs., 680 N.W.2d 62 (Mich. App. 2004).

Student sued school district for denial of free speech, denial of equal protection, and sexual discrimination. …