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If the speech at issue bears the imprimatur of the school and involves pedagogical interests, then it is school-sponsored speech, and the school may impose restrictions on it so long as those restrictions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.
Upon deciding to reopen the school after the shooting, the Jefferson County School District organized a project in which students and community members would decorate tiles that would be glazed, fired, and installed above the molding throughout the halls of the school. The victims’ family members (“plaintiffs”) were restricted from decorating tiles with the date of the shooting or with religious symbols. Plaintiffs brought the present suit under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 for an alleged violation of their free speech rights and the Establishment Clause. The district court granted judgment for the Plaintiffs on their free speech claim under the United States Constitution, and the district appealed.
Did the district’s restrictions violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Free Speech Clause of the United States Constitution?
The judgment was reversed, and the injunction was vacated. The court held that the tile project was school-sponsored speech, which it defined as activities that might reasonably be perceived to bear the imprimatur of the school and that involve pedagogical concerns. The court held that the districts' restrictions on school-sponsored speech did not have to be viewpoint neutral. It concluded that the tiles bore the imprimatur of the school and the purpose of the project was pedagogical. The court held that other references to the shooting in the school did not render the district's restrictions on the tile project unreasonable and the district's restriction on religious symbols was reasonably related to a pedagogical interest which was to prevent the walls from becoming a situs for religious debate, which would be disruptive to the learning environment.