Thursday, January 17, 2008

6th Circuit OK's Ban On Student Using Religious Product In Class Project

In Curry v. Hensiner, (6th Cir., Jan. 16, 2008), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an elementary school principal's decision to prevent a 5th grade student from selling religious-themed material as part of a Classroom City project in which students using faux school currency sold goods they had produced specifically for the event. Joel Curry, a student at the Handley School in Saginaw, Michigan, wanted to make Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of candy canes with an attached card explaining how candy canes can be seen as a symbol of Christianity. The school's principal said that Classroom City was considered instructional time and therefore use of cards with religious content was impermissible. Curry still received an "A" for the project and was given the opportunity to sell the candy canes in the school parking lot after school. The court concluded that because the principal's decision was driven by legitimate pedagogical concerns, Curry's constitutional rights were not abridged. The district court below had concluded that the principal had abridged Curry's freedom of speech, but enjoyed qualified immunity from liability because the precise contours of that right were not clearly established. (See prior posting.) [Thanks to How Appealing for the lead.]