We recently learned that Margaret, a first grade public school student from North Carolina that we represent (along with her mother Jessica), has been allowed to pass out personal invitations to her classmates to events hosted by her church. The school district reconsidered its policies in light of a letter that we sent discussing Margaret’s First Amendment rights.
In the past, Margaret had been able to give invitations to special events at her church to her classmates, but she was prevented from passing out Christmas event invitations in December 2017. Jessica was informed that the school district had changed its interpretation of policies concerning student-to-student literature distribution so that only birthday party invitations could be passed out to other students in the future.
We wrote the school district a letter requesting assurances that Margaret will be permitted to pass out invitations to church-sponsored events, such as events related to the Easter holiday weekend. Our letter explained that existing school district policies did not prohibit student-to-student distribution of invitations to church-sponsored events.
Additionally, the letter explained that student religious speech is entitled to the same robust constitutional protection as student non-religious speech. We also noted that, although public schools may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of student expression, they cannot bar students from expressing religious viewpoints, including through literature distribution.
Our letter also cited several court decisions that held that preventing public school students, including elementary school students, from distributing invitations to their classmates to church-sponsored or other religious events is unconstitutional.
We were recently informed by the school district’s attorney that Margaret and other students would once again be allowed to pass out invitations to church-sponsored events to their classmates. Margaret was able to pass out invitations to an Easter event held by her church without incident.
We are pleased that this situation was resolved successfully and that Margaret’s constitutional rights were respected.
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