Student Speech Restrictions Upheld by Federal Court Ruling
On February 16, a federal court ruled against Michael Leal’s suit, claiming the school district prevented him from practicing his Christian faith, thus upholding the current student speech restrictions.
In October of 2014, Michael Leal, of Cascade High School in Seattle was wrongly suspended for sharing his Christian faith via Bible literature at his school (school administrators called it “disruptive behavior), so he hired Pacific Justice Institute to file a federal law suit claiming his Constitutional rights were violated.
Prior to Leal’s suspension, he was given a “behavior plan,” and asked to signify his agreement with its directives by signing it when he was found distributing Gospel literature in a math class.
The school’s policy states that only literature written by students or school clubs can be distributed and only before and after school at the entrances and exits.
Leal claims through his attorneys:
School administrators violated his rights by limiting his ability to discuss and express his religion. They contend that, by preventing him from promoting his views on Christianity, the school district stopped him from practicing his faith.
Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute, commented:
It is deeply troubling to see a school district dig in its heels on a policy that is so clearly unconstitutional. We are eager to vindicate Mr. Leal’s rights and prevent him from being expelled for simply sharing his deeply-held beliefs. We need more high school seniors, not less, who have strong moral convictions and are concerned about their fellow students.
In a press release on February 20, PJI said, “PJI believes the restriction of literature distribution to entrances and exits contradicts the Supreme Court’s famous 1969 Tinker decision that says students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”