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NCLB, Student Speech, and Bible Distribution All Before (Separate) Appeals Courts This Week


This is turning out to be a big week for education in the federal appeals courts, at least as far as cases coming up for oral arguments.

Yesterday, I was in Cincinnati to cover arguments before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit about a challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act. See my blog post here and a story on Edweek's site. (Yes, they are pretty much the same.)

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit was hearing arguments yesterday in an important case about whether schools could discipline students for Internet speech. The case involves a Pennsylvania school district's discpline of a student for creating a fake MySpace profile of his principal.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the arguments here, and the Legal Intelligencer reports here.

The briefs for both sides in the case, Layshock v. Hermitage School District, are available here at the site of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is representing the student. (Hat tip to Howard Bashman's How Appealing blog.)

[In related Internet-parodies-of-educators news, the ACLU of Florida filed this lawsuit Monday on behalf of a Florida charter school student who was disciplined for creating a Facebook parody of one of his teachers. The group has this press release, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports here. (Thanks to How Appealing for this, too.)]

Finally, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, heard arguments today in a case about the distribution of Gideon Bibles in public schools. Liberty Counsel is representing the South Iron School District in Missouri, which has an equal-access policy that permits the Gideons to distribute Bibles from tables in the district's schools.

Liberty Counsel has this press release about the case. The ACLU of Eastern Missouri, which is representing the plaintiffs challenging the policy, has this page devoted to the case, which includes legal briefs and court decisions.

The 8th Circuit makes recordings of its oral arguments available, and today's case is up. Hit this link, then click on "Court Session" at left, then on "2008 December" and look for Case No. 08-1847, Lonney Roark v. South Iron R-1 School District, on Dec. 11.


These are some high profile cases concerning very hot button issues. If either side is victorious more often than the other (conservatives on one side, liberals on the other) I expect the "losing" side to raise hell. Obviously it's not as if judges get together and decide how they're going to decide cases, but if the ACLU finds itself on the losing side of too many cases, that's how they'll paint the situation, especially to donors.

All of these issues are very interesting. A split on the NCLB issue from the two circuits would certainty make the issue more appealing to the Sup Ct. It will also be interesting to see how the 8th Circuit approaches the equal–access free speech regulation.

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