In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the rights of a student at Handley Elementary School were not violated when he was barred from selling candy canes that had Christmas messages attached as part of a class project. The court ruled that under the Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the principal had the right to control school-sponsored speech.
(The US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has jurisdiction over Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee as well as Michigan).
Also in 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld as “reasonable” the “time, place and manner” restrictions that Jefferson Middle School officials imposed on a student who wanted to distribute anti-abortion literature during the school day. The court agreed with the school district that barring the student from distributing the flyers in the hallways was acceptable because it was “viewpoint neutral” and the hallways were not a “public forum” open to indiscriminate use by the public.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Bretton Barber wore a T-shirt to
with a picture of President Bush and the caption "International Terrorist." The 16-year-old student was told he should take off the shirt or go home. He refused to remove the shirt and left school. He filed a federal free speech lawsuit with the help of the ACLU, and won his case in October 2003, with the district court judge stating that "there is no evidence that the T-shirt created any disturbance or disruption" at school. The judge also rejected the school district's position that school is an inappropriate place for political debate, maintaining that on the contrary, "students benefit when school officials provide an environment where they can openly express their diverging viewpoints and when they learn to tolerate the opinions of others."
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
In November 2003, Alexander Smith was largely but not entirely victorious in the lawsuit he brought after he was suspended for 10 days from
for reading aloud to friends at his lunch table a commentary criticizing the school's new tardiness policy and calling the school principal and assistant principal names. The judge ruled that the
state law which required the suspension or expulsion of students who engaged in a "verbal assault" in school was, as Smith had claimed, unconstitutional. But the judge also said administrators had the right to discipline the student because of the "vicious and personal" names he had called school officials.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
After a federal district court in March 2007 ruled on behalf of Jefferson Middle School students, they will be allowed to engage in a silent protest against abortion. One student had been prohibited from wearing a pro-life T-shirt and covering his mouth with tape as part of the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. In its decision, the court referred to the 1969 Supreme Court Tinker decision, which upholds student expression unless it creates a substantial disruption in the school or invade the rights of others. The school district is appealing to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
In early 2006 the mother of the only Black student at a school in
filed a lawsuit on behalf of her daughter, stating that school administrators had forced the third grader to use a separate restroom and other students had taunted her with racial slurs.
A high school student of the Hudson Area Schools district experienced increasingly escalating bullying and sexual harassment in school hallways and locker rooms. The student and his parents reported the abuses but nothing was done to stop them. After the parents brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against the school district, the district took action under their anti-bullying policy. However, the family argued that the school should have done more than just stop the specific incidents, and instead taken measures such as implementing monitors. In 2010, the federal district court jury agreed with the parents and found the school district liable for not providing the student with a safe environment. The ruling held that there should be a rigorous effort by the administration to stop bullying in schools altogether, instead of preventing or retroactively dealing with specific incidents as they occur.