Tuesday, June 29, 2010
District prohibition on student’s anti-abortion protest involving wearing armband, and distributing flyers violated her free speech rights
C.H. v. Bridgeton Bd. of Educ., ___F.Supp. 2d ____ (D. N.J. Apr. 22, 2010), is an interesting case. A lower court held that school officials violated a student’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression when they prohibited her from participating in a national day of silent protest against abortion. . The student planned to: (1) remain silent during class; (2) remain silent during the entire school day; (3) hand out flyers to other students about her silence; and (4) wear a red duct tape band with the word “LIFE” in black marker either over her arm and/or mouth. In denying her request, the principal stated that taping her mouth and wearing the bands would violate BHS’s dress code policy; no handouts would be allowed because they would violate the school’s literature distribution policy. C.H. also claimed the only reason the principal gave her father for the decision was that “religious” material was not allowed in school.
The decision is complicated and is a primer of First Amendment rights in schools. The decision rests on an interpretation of Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).Mitchell H. Rubinstein