Monday, August 13, 2018

No Free Exercise Violation In Teacher's Support of Transgender Student

In Leontiev v. Corbett School District, (D OR, Aug. 10, 2018), a Oregon federal district court dismissed a suit brought against a school district and a number of individuals by the mother of a transgender male high school student. The suit alleged that several individuals interfered with plaintiff's parental relationship in helping the student leave his home. It also alleged that one teacher violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights by disparaging her religion when she told a deputy sheriff that plaintiff and her husband were conservative Christians who were not supportive of the student's gender transition. The court said:
... [T]he Court can find no case, that supports the constitutional principle that an off-duty teacher who has never had a particular student in her class violates the Free Exercise Clause of that student’s parent when the teacher, off school premises, expresses her personal opinion, even if that expression is critical of the parent’s religious beliefs. If a public school teacher makes derogatory comments about a particular religion in a classroom in the presence of students, that teacher very well may have violated clearly established principles under the First Amendment, either in violation of the Establishment Clause or, perhaps, the Free Exercise Clause. But that is not what happened in this case....