Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sixth Circuit upholds school district's categorical ban on wearing of Confederate flag

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit sided with a school district in Tennesee in a dispute about whether or not a school district may ban a student from wearing the Confederate flag.

In that case, the student and his father sued the school district after he had been repeatedly required to remove or otherwise conceal Confederate flags he had been wearing. The school district had a policy that “[c]lothing and accessories such as backpacks, patches, jewelry, and notebooks must not display (1) racial or ethnic slurs/symbols, (2) gang affiliations, (3) vulgar, subversive, or sexually suggestive language or images; nor, should they promote products which students may not legally buy; such as alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.” The student contended that this policy violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The school district contended that the policy was necessary so as to not disrupt the educational process. (The school district had a history of racial problems, including even a bombing of the high school after integration). Ultimately, the trial court granted summary judgment to the school district.

In analyzing the student's claims, the Sixth Circuit reviewed the relevant U.S. Supreme Court precedents on point, namely, Tinker v. Des Moines, Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, and Morse v. Frederick. The Sixth Circuit then concluded that "cases yield three principles: (1) under Fraser, a
school may categorically prohibit vulgar, lewd, indecent, or plainly
offensive student speech, Fraser, (2) under Hazelwood,
a school has limited authority to censor school-sponsored student speech
in a manner consistent with pedagogical concerns, and (3) the Tinker standard applies to all other student speech and allows regulation only when the school reasonably believes that the speech will substantially and materially interfere with schoolwork or
discipline." [The Court noted that Morse was a case that had no application here.]

In reviewing the claim under this approach, the Court held that the school district had a reasonable belief that the speech would substantially and materially interfere with schoolwork or discipline. The school district was able to cite to numerous instances of racial discord within the school in the last several years. Additionally, the Court turned back Plaintiff's claims that there was viewpoint discrimination because the policy was written and enforced (for the most part) even-handedly.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Columbus City Schools targeted by national group

A national group has filed a Complaint against the Columbus City Schools with the United States Department of Education, alleging violations of Title IX.

As can be read about here, http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/11/11/girls-access-called-unequal.html?sid=101 the group is alleging that the Columbus City Schools discriminate against females in athletics.

Title IX, originally passed in 1972, provides that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."

Though the original statute has no mention of sports in it, it is best known for its impact on female athletics.

Columbus is one of 12 school districts targeted by the National Women's Law Center. Each of the districts that had complaints filed against them had at least double digit dispartities between the percentage of female students versus the number of female athletes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Student's expulsion appeal untimely, court of appeals rules

The Tenth District Court of Appeals, which covers Columbus and Franklin County, upheld the dismissal of a student's appeal of his expulsion for smoking marijuana prior to attending school.

In that case, the student had been expelled from school for allegedly smoking marijuana before class. The student and his parents appealed the expulsion decision and pursued a hearing on the matter. After the hearing, the school board upheld the expulsion and sent written notice to the student on December 21, 2009.

Thereafter, the student and his parents filed suit on January 20, 2010, appealing the administrative decision of the Board. In dismissing the case, the Court found that the student and his parents had not followed the proper procedure because R.C. 2505.07 requires appeals to be filed within 30 days of the decision, and for the appeal to be filed with the administrative agency, not the court.

Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the expulsion stands.