New Federal Suit Challenges Speech Restrictions at WA High School
Seattle, WA–A new lawsuit filed this week in Seattle federal court challenges what attorneys are calling “egregious” speech restrictions in an Everett high school.
Attorneys with the Pacific Justice Institute are representing Michael Leal, a senior at Cascade High School. Leal is a devout Christian who shares his faith with his fellow students through gospel tracts and the spoken word. He has been suspended three times so far this school year and faces expulsion if he continues to share his faith. School officials have claimed that Leal’s tracts, such as one entitled, “How to Know God,” and other messages concerning the Ten Commandments may be offensive.
In investigating the suspensions, PJI attorneys were shocked by the sweeping nature of school restrictions on speech. While the Supreme Court famously declared 45 years ago in the Tinker case that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate, Everett Public Schools only allows student literature to be distributed at school entrances and exits, before and after school, and even then only if the literature is written by a student. In response to letters from PJI attorneys seeking to resolve the conflict without litigation, school district attorneys staunchly defended the sweeping policies.
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.”
Seattle attorney Conrad Reynoldson is serving as PJI’s local counsel in this case. Mr. Reynoldson noted, “The policies and procedures we are challenging in this case would prevent students from handing out not only Gospel tracts, but copies of the Constitution itself. This is an egregious violation of student rights that should concern people of all faiths and philosophical persuasions. We simply cannot allow the government to impose these types of sweeping speech restrictions.”
Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit legal organization dedicated to defending religious, parental, and other constitutional rights.
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