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Law School Case Brief

Virgil v. Sch. Bd. - 862 F.2d 1517 (11th Cir. 1989)

Rule:

Case law established a relatively lenient test for regulation of expression which may fairly be characterized as part of the school curriculum. Such regulation is permissible so long as it is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns. 

Facts:

Since about 1975, the educational curriculum at Columbia High School, which was manages by defendant Vigil School Board, included a course entitled "Humanities to 1500," which was offered as part of a two-semester survey of Western thought, art and literature. In 1985, the school designed the course for eleventh- and twelfth-grade students and prescribed as a textbook Volume I of The Humanities: Cultural Roots and Continuities. This book contained both required and optional readings for the course. Due to complaints from the parents of the students regarding the vulgar and sexually explicit material from the textbook, the school board decided to remove it. Vigil

Virgil, joined with other students, filed an action in federal district court against the school board and others, claiming that U.S. Const. amend. I prevented the school board from removing a previously approved textbook from an elective high school class because of objections to the material's alleged vulgarity and sexual explicitness. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court found in favor of the school board. Vigil appealed.

Issue:

Did the First Amendment prevent a school board from removing a previously approved textbook from an elective high school class because of objections to the material's vulgarity and sexual explicitness?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court because the school board's decision to remove the material was reasonably related to the legitimate pedagogical concern of denying students access to potentially sensitive topics such as sexuality. In matters pertaining to the curriculum, educators were accorded greater control over expression than they might enjoy in other spheres of activity. After concluding that there was no constitutional violation, the court stated that its role was not to second guess defendants' wisdom, even though the court did not endorse defendants' decision.

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