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Legal Alert on Poway Ruling

Legal Alert on Poway Ruling

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Published by CaliforniaWatch

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Published by: CaliforniaWatch on Jul 29, 2010
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Legal Alerts are published by KronickMoskovitz Tiedemann & Girard as a timelyreporting service to alert clients andother friends of recent changes in caselaw, opinions or codes. This alert doesnot represent the legal opinion of the firmor any member of the firm on the issuesdescribed, and the information containedin this publication should not be construedas legal advice. Should further analysisor explanation of the subject matter berequired, please contact the attorney withwhom you normally consult.
SAN LUIS OBISPO
1432 Higuera StreetSan Luis Obispo, CA 93401Tel: 805.786.4302
WALNUT CREEK
1350 Treat Boulevard, Suite 105Walnut Creek, CA 94597Tel: 925.395.2380
WWW.KMTG.COMSACRAMENTO
400 Capitol Mall, 27th FloorSacramento, CA 95814Tel: 916.321.4500
BAKERSFIELD
1675 Chester Ave., Ste. 320Bakersfield, CA 93301Tel: 661.864.3800
 KMTG
Legal Alert
Shared Vision. Innovative Legal Solutions. Successful Clients.
© 2009 Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard
RELATEDAREAS OF PRACTICE
March30,2010    BulletinNo.935817.2    
EducationLaw    
1   
SchoolDistrictMayNotCensorTeachersIn-ClassroomExpressionThat  ReferstoJudeo-ChristianViewsWhileItAllowsOtherTeachersToExpress   ViewsonControversialSubjects   
In
Johnsonv.PowayUnifiedSchoolDistrict  
,(Slip   Copy,2010WL768856,S.D.Cal.,February252010),theUnitedStatesDistrictCourtforthe  SouthernDistrictofCaliforniaconsideredthe  followingissue:“Mayaschooldistrictcensor  ahighschoolteacher’sexpressionbecauseit  referstoJudeo-Christianviewswhileallowing   otherteacherstoexpressviewsonanumberof  controversialsubjects,includingreligionand   anti-religion?”TheUnitedStatesDistrictCourt  heldthattheschooldistrictmaynotcensorthe  highschoolteacher’sexpression
Facts   
BradleyJohnson(“Johnson”)isemployedby   thePowayUnifiedSchoolDistrict(“District”)  asahighschoolmathteacher.Johnsonhas  taughtmathintheDistrictfor30years.Over  thelasttwodecades,Johnsonhashungtwo   bannersonthewallsofhisclassroomswithout  objectionfromstudents,parents,or  administrators.Eachbannerisapproximately   twofeettallandsevenfeetwide.Onebanner, whichhashunginJohnsonsclassroomfor25   years,hasred,white,andbluestripesand   containsthephrases“InGodWeTrust,“One  NationUnderGod,”“GodBlessAmerica,”and   “GodShedHisGraceOnThee.”Thesecond   banner,whichhashunginJohnsons  classroomfor17years,quotestheDeclaration   ofIndependenceandstates,“AllMenAre  CreatedEqual,TheyAreEndowedByTheir  Creator.”Theword“creator”isinalluppercase  letters. Johnsonhungthebannersnotaspartofhis  curriculum,butinsteadpursuanttoDistrict’s  “long-standing...practice,andcustomof  permittingteacherstodisplaypersonal messagesontheirclassroomwalls.”This  policyallowsteacherstodisplaymessagesand   itemsintheirclassrooms“thatreflectthe  individualteacher’spersonality,opinions,and   values,aswellasmessagesrelatingtomatters  ofpolitical,social,andreligiousconcerns,so   longasthesedisplaysdonotmateriallydisrupt  schoolworkorcausesubstantialdisorderor  interferenceintheclassroom.”Otherteachers  inDistrict’shighschoolsdisplayitemssuchas  TibetanprayerflagswithimagesofBuddha, lyricstothesong“Imagine,”aposterof  MahatmaGandhi,aposterquotingGandhis“7   SocialSins,”aposterofBuddhistleaderDalLama,aposterofMuslimministerMalcolmXaGreenpeaceposter,variouspostersofsports  teams,athletes,androckbands,bumper  stickersthatreferencediversity,aLibertarian   Partyposter,postersthatreferencepeace,an   anti-warposter,apro-defenseposter,aposter  ofMartinLutherKing,Jr.,andvariousother  posterswiththeAmericanflagInthefallof2006,anothermathteacher  questionedthehighschoolsprincipalabout  whyJohnsonwaspermittedtohavethe  bannersonhiswalls.AfteraninvestigationtheschoolboarddecidedtoorderJohnsonto   removethebanners.Theassistant  superintendentorderedthatafullcopyofthe  DeclarationofIndependenceandpicturesof  UnitedStatescoinsbedeliveredtoJohnsonso   hecouldplacethemonthewallinplaceofthe  banners.Johnsondeclinedtodisplaythese  itemsandinsteadofferedtopostthefulltexts  fromwhichthephrasesonthebannercame. TheprincipalorderedJohnsontoremovethe  bannersbecausethey“wereimpermissible  becausetheyconveyedaJudeo-Christian   viewpoint”whileDistrictofficialsstatedthatthe  displayoftheTibetanprayerflags,lyricsof  Lennons“Imagine,”postersoftheDalaiLama, andpostersofGandhiandhisteachingswere  permissibleunderthepolicy. 
Decision   
Johnsonmovedforsummaryjudgmentonhis  claimsthatDistrictviolatedhisFirst  AmendmentfreespeechrightsundertheUnited   StatesConstitutionandhisfreespeechrights  

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