PA Schools Warned About Censoring Student’s Religious Expression

In December 2010, Katie Ayers, a fifth grade girl at Barrett Elementary Center in Cresco, Pennsylvania went to school carrying flyers for a Christmas party at her church.  Although other students have passed out flyers and invitations to other out-of-school events like scouting and various clubs, school officials stopped the girl from handing out her flyers because it contained elements of religious faith.  The Pocono Mountain School District stood behind the school’s decision, claiming they have a policy that forbids anything being handed out that mentions religious faith in any fashion.

In March of 2011, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against Pocono Mountain School District on behalf of the student, claiming that her First Amendment rights of free speech had been violated.  The school district not only cited their policies but argued before the court that elementary students are young enough to have their First Amendment rights greatly limited.

A lower court heard the case and ruled that the school had indeed violated the student’s First Amendment rights.  The school district appealed the case to the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals.  In March of this year, the appeals court issued a ruling that backs up the lower court’s decision that the school district did in fact violate the student’s First Amendment rights.  The Appeal Court also ruled that the two policies the school used as their defense were unconstitutional when applied to this form of student expression.

Marr Sharp, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom has discovered that hundreds of other schools in Pennsylvania are using the same school policy that Pocono Mountain School District used when they censored fifth grader Katie Ayers back in 2010.  Fearing that they may also use their policy to censor the First Amendment rights of students, Alliance Defending Freedom has sent letters to 300 school districts in Pennsylvania encouraging them to pay attention to the court’s ruling.

In the letters, they also explained to the schools that the US Constitution prohibits public school teachers and administrators from using their own personal feelings and agenda to censor what should be appropriate language on school campuses.

Sharp told OneNewsNow:

“We hope that we will see school districts stepping up to do the right thing and remedying these unconstitutional policies.”

I feel that their letter needs to be sent out to every school district in America, warning them to stop trampling on the constitutional rights of students.  We’ve seen too many instances where teachers and faculty have used their own political and religious agendas to squelch the First Amendment rights of students.  For some reason, they seem to feel that since they are children and not adults that the Constitution does not apply to them, but nowhere does the Constitution say that rights begin at 18 or 21.  In fact, that also applies for unborn children as they are people and citizens of this country and as such, they have the constitutional rights of protection that liberals deny them.

If you are a teacher or work in a public school, make sure you are aware of what the courts have said about the rights of students’ religious and political expression.  If you are the parent of a student who has had their First Amendment rights violated by teachers or faculty, you need to tell them what the courts have ruled.  Otherwise, I’ll keep writing about more and more instances where our liberal socialist public schools continue to trample on the constitutional rights of students.