Student's First Amendment Rights Violated by School Says U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

The Pocono Mountain School District believes elementary school students should have their First Amendment rights greatly limited.

In December 2010, a fifth grade girl at Barrett Elementary Center in Cresco, Pennsylvania went to school carrying flyers for a Christmas party at her church.  Although other students have passed out flyers and invitations to other out-of-school events like scouting and various clubs, school officials stopped the girl from handing out her flyers because it contained elements of religious faith.  The Pocono Mountain School District stood behind the school’s decision, claiming they have a policy that forbids anything being handed out that mentions religious faith in any fashion.

In March of 2011, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against Pocono Mountain School District on behalf of the student, claiming that her First Amendment rights of free speech had been violated.  The school district not only cited their policies but argued before the court that elementary students are young enough to have their First Amendment rights greatly limited.

A lower court heard the case and ruled that the school had indeed violated the student’s First Amendment rights.  The school district appealed the case to the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals who just issued a ruling that backs up the lower court’s decision that the school district did in fact violate the student’s First Amendment rights.  The Appeal Court also ruled that the two policies the school used as their defense were unconstitutional when applied in this form of student expression.  In their decision, the court wrote:

“It is difficult to identify a constitutional justification for cabining the First Amendment protections … to older students.  The fact that [the student] was only in the fifth-grade and the invitation originated from her church does not mandate a different approach.”

David Cortman, Senior Legal Counsel for ADF who filed the original lawsuit on behalf of the student, commented about the latest ruling:

“In this day and age, when our younger students are subject to so much that comes from both the school district and outside sources, it’s certainly important that they’re able to speak about their own faith and not be subject to censorship for it.”

“In this case, the school district tried to argue that for some reason the Constitution doesn’t apply to younger students, but the court rejected that theory – and that’s certainly good for all students.”

This is not the first time that a school district trampled on a student’s First Amendment rights only to have the courts rule in favor of the student.  The Candy Cane Case from Plano, Texas, was fairly similar to this one and ended with a similar court ruling in favor of the student.

If you find that your child’s school is bullying them about their Christian faith, church or the like, check into it and if need be contact someone like Alliance Defending Freedom.  Schools must be stopped and taught that they are not as powerful and privileged as they think they are.  If you don’t take action, the school will continue to bully other kids and violate their First Amendment rights, so you owe it not only to your child, but all of the others as well.



Posted in Education, First Amendment, Law, Religion Tagged with: , , , ,
  • geneww1938

    Even if you are fighting on the school board, pull you students out for home schooling or for private schooling.

  • kjenkinsaf

    Schadenfreude is in order. Along with a chorus of “Neener Neener NEEENER”.

  • Richard Holmes

    Kick these satan worshipers in their teeth. They want the younger children to be easily brainwashed so they say that the younger children aren’t protected by the 1st amendment. It is time to eliminate all the liberals in this country by any means necessary.

  • TxPastor

    OK, people of Pocono Mountain School District time to replace your school board, principle and superintendent. Not only have they violated your children’s rights, but they wasted YOUR tax dollars trying to continue this violation, even to an appelate court! And don’t wait for a regular election, force a special election and run them out!

  • Chief47

    This is what needs to happen every single time this type of dictatorship by school officials rears it’s ugly head. The parents or some citizen’s right group needs to keep suing these school systems over and over and over until they finally get the point that they didn’t write the Constitution and are not free to interpret in any way they so please. Kudos to the fact that at least some of the courts in this land haven’t gone totally over to the liberal pablum that Obama and his administration are spooning out.

  • 9Spoon9

    The absence or lack of Parental Responsibility and Accountability are to blame. Disinterested, self-centered nincompoops have children these days and aren’t often to be bothered with such mundane issues regarding school policies has allowed the anti-Christian attitudes to prevail while Constitutional rights, freedoms and Liberties are trampled or ignored..

    I taught grades 9-12 for many years. We received fair showings each year on the 1st Parent-centered event and little to almost zero attendance by parents on subsequent opportunities. A small core group of involved parents were the backbone of support and comprised the PTAs. Old-fashioned values and concerns about education have eroded tremendously. One or both of my parents NEVER missed an opportunity to visit my school and chat with teachers about me or life in general. Most of the time these meetings were beneficial for me…but occasionally, my folks uncovered a thing or two that I might have forgotten to mention occurred!!!

    It’s everyone’s responsibility to be aware of what’s going on in their particular niche and a duty to engage all wrongs. Not speaking up for beliefs and maintaining a higher moral ground is simply aiding the cause of the liberals’ agenda. PC is NOT politically nor morally correct. Like the song’s lyrics, “You’ve got to stand for some things…or you’ll fall for anything.”,

  • Sgt. York

    The Constitution Rules

  • Caddy

    Amen to that! Quit trying to enslave the American People & Our Kids! We seem to b losing all our rights here, including what we can & cannot even eat!

  • QuisPercusit

    If we are citizens at birth are we not equally entitled to ther provisions of the constitution?The Illegal alien anchor babies seem to be but the Progeny of Legitimate citizens aren’t , Bovine excrement! Censor my kid? I dare ya. Deny my kid one iota of his first amendment right? I double dog dare ya!

    Since when do “school board Policies” have more validity than the US Constitution The Pocono Mountain School district ought to be picketed, boycotted, mocked,jeered, ridiculed and humiliated on an hourly basis and a law suit seems to be in order maybe even a class action suit on behalf of all students!daily

  • Keenan Lee

    Unfortunately this most happens to Christian students. It rarely happens to Muslim students.

  • WASP

    School Staff, including the idiots on the BOE should have their fat salaries and benefits greatly limited–and, for some, their life span.

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