Fly Your Flag Proudly: Religious Displays on Public Property

So I missed this last week, but the Supreme Court has decided to hear Shurtleff v. City of Boston, a case brought by a Christian group that was denied permission by the City of Boston to fly its flag, which features a Latin Cross, on a flagpole at Boston City Hall.  According to the lawsuit, the City encourages private groups to fly their flags on the city flagpole, and over the course of twelve years had allowed over 280 groups to do so, including Juneteenth and LGBTQ-related flags.  But the group claims they were denied permission solely because their flag was religious.

He, She or It: Fighting Over Pronouns

Pennsylvania students want classmate banned from campus for opposing pronoun policy

A petition has been started to ban a university student from campus, after he criticized a policy that requires students to address other students using their preferred pronouns.  Apparently the university had informed students that "action could be taken" if they used the wrong pronouns.  No litigation yet, but we'll be keeping an eye on this one.

B.L.’s discipline is overturned — but who won the case?

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its decision in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. by and through Levy, the case involving a tenth-grade student who, disappointed that she did not make the varsity cheerleading squad, went home and posted a picture of herself on Snapchat with her middle finger raised, with the caption “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.”  The Supreme Court agreed with the Third Circuit that removing the student from the JV cheer squad for her sophomore year violated her First Amendment rights.  However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Third Circuit – or, at least, the two judges in the majority – as to why it violated her First Amendment rights. 

This is important, because while the Supreme Court’s decision was obviously a loss for the Mahanoy Area School District, I would go so far as…

Bad Facts make bad law

 

As some of you know, I have been following the B.L. by and through Levy v. Mahanoy Area School District case since last year, and reported a few months ago that it had been appealed to the United States Supreme Court (which agreed to hear the case in January). I am honored to announce that I was asked by the National Association of Pupil Services Administrators (NAPSA) (as well as its member organization, the Pennsylvania Association of Pupil Services Administrators), to file an amicus brief at the Supreme Court on behalf of its members. NAPSA is the only national organization that focuses its efforts on the development of administrators and programs designed to serve the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of all students.

Cheerleaders to the Court!

[caption id="attachment_310" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] New York Times- A Cheerleader’s Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown[/caption]

As expected, the Mahanoy Area School District has asked the Supreme Court to consider the Third Circuit's decision in B.L. by and through Levy v. Mahanoy Area School District, 964 F.3d 170 (3d Cir. 2020), which I posted about back in July and which involved a high school cheerleader who, after learning that she did not make the varsity squad, posted a picture of herself and a friend to Snapchat with their middle fingers raised and the caption “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.”  The Third Circuit ruled for the student, and in doing so held that Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District – which allows schools to discipline students for speech that “materially and substantially…

What’s going on in iowa?

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2020/10/16/uni-student-government-blocks-national-anti-abortion-group-forming-student-chapter-says-could-create/3678461001/


Most of you probably think I am usually left-of-center in my discussion of First Amendment issues in public education, so today I will shift right-of-center and discuss the conflict between anti-discrimination/harassment policies and the First Amendment rights of students, particularly at the higher education levels.  In the attached article, the Des Moines Register chronicles issues going on at three different public universities, where students on the right of the political spectrum claim that their universities have violated their First Amendment rights by enforcing anti-discrimination/harassment policies against them personally, or their organizations generally. 


According to the article, “Iowa State University took ‘corrective action’ in August after a professor’s syllabus prohibited students from submitting material that opposed Black Lives Matter, gay marriage, abortion and other topics.”  Students at the University of Northern Iowa complained that their…