And that may have implications for prayers at school board meetings, in my view. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., upheld a policy requiring that prayers delivered at the beginning of meetings of the Fredericksburg, Va., city council be nondenominational. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor served on the panel by designation, and she wrote the opinion for a unanimous court. "The restriction that prayers be nonsectarian in nature is designed to make the prayers accessible to people who come from a variety of backgrounds, not ...


A federal appeals court today struck down a federal law aimed at protecting children from Internet pornography by imposing criminal penalties on commercial Web publishers who fail to restrict access to sexually explicit sites. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled unanimously in American Civil Liberties Union v. Mukasey that the Child Online Protection Act violates the First and Fifth Amendments on its face. The law, enacted in 1998 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a broader effort by Congress to protect children from sexually explicit content on ...


A strip search of an 8th grader by school authorities looking for Ibuprofen pills violated the student's rights under the Fourth Amendment, a federal appeals court has ruled. In a significant decision in a closely watched case on students' rights and administrators' liability, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled 8-3 on July 11 that officials at an Arizona middle school "acted contrary to all reason and common sense as they trampled over" the privacy interests of student Savana Redding. However, the "en banc" 11th Circuit panel split 6-5 in holding that the assistant principal who ...


I probably should have noted this sooner, but I am on vacation this week. However, Education Week just posted my final U.S. Supreme Court story of the term that ended late last month. Embedded in the Web page of the story is a review of cases of interest to educators in the 2008-09 term. I'll be back to the blog next week....


A federal appeals court ruled today that authorities violated the rights of members of an anti-abortion group by ordering them to stop driving a truck displaying large, graphic images of aborted fetuses around a California middle school. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled unanimously in Center for Bio-Ethical Reform v. Los Angeles County Sheriff Department that a California statute that bars disruption on or near school grounds could not be applied under the First Amendment to efforts by the anti-abortion group to drive its truck around Dodson Middle ...


Maine's highest court has ruled that towns may not provide a subsidy to parents who pay tuition to send their children to private religious schools. Meanwhile, Arizona's highest court has issued an order permitting two state voucher programs that cover private religious schools to continue, but the state legislature has declined to provide any funding for the programs next year. In the Maine case, the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously on July 1 in Joyce v. State of Maine that a state law that prohibits the use of public funds to directly pay tuition at private religious schools also ...


A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that public school teachers in Milwaukee may display signs calling for a new union contract in their classrooms. The city school system had sought to bar teachers from displaying signs that read "Attract and Retain With a Fair Contract NOW!" and "Do the Right Thing." The signs represented political advocacy that was barred by district policy from school buildings, the system argued. But the state Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission that the signs were permitted under state law because they related to ongoing collective-bargaining activities. In a ...


With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling 5-4 today that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a gun unconnected to a militia, I thought I'd point out the lengthy decision's few references to schools. In his opinion for the 5-4 majority in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia has a passage stressing that the ruling "should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing ...


A federal appeals court has ruled that two small Texas school districts do not have to comply with restrictions on student transfers under a broad 1970 desegregation order because those districts had desegregated voluntarily in the 1960s and were not defendants in the original lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, issued the decision June 24 in Samnorwood Independent School District v. Texas Education Agency . The 112-student Samnorwood district and the 101-student Harrold Independent School District, both in the Texas Panhandle, had been required by the TEA to comply ...


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments bars the imposition of the death penalty for the rape of a child. While the decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana (Case No. 07-343) does not directly implicate the school and institutional sex-abuse scandals of the last decade, there are some points in the majority and minority opinions that bear discussion from that perspective. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy notes that the rape of a child, such as that of the 8-year-old victim in this case by her stepfather, is ...


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