A new federal lawsuit filed late last week challenges restrictions on student speech at a Northern California school.
Attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute filed suit in the Sacramento-based U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. PJI represents a student, who is being identified as "Esther," to protect her identity, to vindicate her rights to share invitations with a handful of classmates at her Placer County school, without censorship.
In September, Esther gave two friends an invitation to an event called "Genesis Apologetics" that explored topics like creation and evolution. Since Esther shared the invitation outside of class, the school had no involvement with it and was not even aware of it until the mother of one of her friends called the principal and superintendent to complain.
The school then summoned Esther to the office to scold her for inviting her friend to the event, and directed her to write an "Incident Report" confessing her wrongdoing.
The acting principal then summoned Esther back to the office several more times to re-write her confession until it was satisfactory.
In follow-up exchanges between PJI and the district's attorneys, the district insisted that all material such as flyers or announcements shared by Esther must first be stamped with a disclaimer by the school.
The policy cited by the district appears to be written only to apply to material distributed by the school itself, leading Esther and her attorneys to believe she was singled out based on the perceived controversial nature of the event.
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, "It is a bedrock constitutional principle that a school cannot restrict student speech just because someone disagrees with or dislikes the message.
"In this case, it is clear that the school came down hard on our client simply because a third party disagreed with her viewpoint and complained about it.
"Controversy or complaints are not valid bases for restricting student speech; rather, they are opportunities to educate parents and students about our fundamental freedoms."