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Back to April Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 135 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS APRIL 1997

Court Upholds First Amendment Right
To Pass Out 'Nosy Questions' Flier

CLARKSBURG, WV - U.S. District Court Judge Irene Keeley has issued a final judgment that upholds individuals' First Amendment rights to disseminate written materials on school grounds, as well as to participate in field trips that involve religious or political speech activities.

The ruling involved two lawsuits filed in March 1995 by Cindy DeLullo and her daughter Erin of Charles Town, WV against the Jefferson County Board of Education. The DeLullos and their attorney, John Schryber, welcomed the Feb. 14 decision after the cases had languished in court for nearly two years.

Nosy Questions Flier
Cindy DeLullo may now freely distribute the 'Nosy Questions' flier on school grounds
In the first suit, Mrs. DeLullo challenged the Jefferson County School Board's Dissemination Policy which prohibited her from distributing "A Student's Guide to Nosy Questions that Your School Should Not Ask You" on school grounds. Judge Keeley held the board's policy unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. She went further to declare unconstitutional the way in which the policy was applied to Mrs. DeLullo, and she enjoined the board against interfering with the distribution of the pamphlet.

The judgment also declared that the school board's "Limited Open Forum" policy was not constitutionally applied with respect to the request of the Bible Club of the Charles Town Junior High School to attend the National Day of Prayer, held in Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1995.

Under the board's "Limited Open Forum" provisions, the Bible Club and other noncurricular student groups at Charles Town Junior High are supposed to enjoy "equal access" to school facilities for conducting meetings "on instructional time for noncurriculum related purposes." However, the Associate Superintendent of Schools denied Bible Club members permission to attend the event because it was not "content-neutral" (see Education Reporter, May 1995). The school board had permitted numerous noncurricular clubs to take field trips, but did not accord the same rights and privileges to the Bible Club.

Judge Keeley "forever enjoined" the school board "from taking any action against students enrolled in any of its schools, including the members of the Charles Town Junior High School Bible Club, which would limit their ability to participate in field trips based upon the religious or political content of speech activities in which they are expected to engage thereon or which would otherwise restrict the activities of any noncurriculum-related student groups on the basis of the content of their expression."

This ruling, according to Mrs. DeLullo, effectively expands First Amendment protections to include off-campus activities of a religious or political nature for all student groups.

 
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