Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Harper v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., No. 07-55224, ____F.3d____ (9th Cir. Mar. 10, 2009), is an interesting Education Law/Student First A type of case. In a brief, but important decision in a case involving a California district that restricted a T-shirt that expressed religious objections to homosexuality, the Ninth Circuit ruled that two high school students’ First Amendment claims for equitable and declaratory relief are moot and that school officials are entitled to qualified immunity from their First Amendment claims for nominal damages. The court found that the claim for equitable and declaratory relief had been rendered moot because both students had graduated from high school and the school’s student speech policies had been significantly amended since the suit was filed. The court followed the district court’s lead, and held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S. Ct. 808 (2009), it found that given “the present state of the law and the parameters of the specific policies challenged,” it was not the case that a reasonable official would understand that the violated the First Amendment.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein