Justice Center Sues School for Punishing Student’s Religious Speech

High School student suspended for sharing his Christian faith/beliefs in the hallway with another student and in a private text conversation.

Our Justice Center filed a complaint in Federal Court in the Western District of Michigan on behalf of a high school student athlete. He was suspended for three days last fall for stating his Christian beliefs in a private text conversation and in a hallway at school. The school also punished him for not policing and reporting other student’s inappropriate jokes. The Defendants’ further instructed the student that he must stop posting his religious comments on all his social media platforms.

The student was also disciplined because of some offensive behavior by others, in which he did not participate and was not aware of, at a football game last October. The complaint alleges four Counts: 1. Violation of First Amendment constitutional rights to Free Speech and to the Free Exercise of Religion. 2. Violation of Michigan constitutional rights. 3. The school’s policies are unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable. 4. Violations of the Matt Epling Safe School Law.

The student requests a declaratory judgment that the Plainwell School District violated his rights as stated above, injunctive relief, reversal of the disciplinary action in his school record, damages, and attorney fees. David A. Kallman, Senior Legal Counsel with the Great Lakes Justice Center, remarked,

My client’s religious speech and beliefs should be treated with tolerance and respect. Public schools may not violate the constitution and enforce a heckler’s veto of student speech. Nothing the student did caused any disruption or problem at the school. He has the right to express his opinion in accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs, without vilification or punishment from the government for holding to those beliefs.

Great Lakes Justice Center will defend our client’s freedoms to the fullest extent of the law.” The student’s father stated: “

We have always taught our son to be respectful of everyone’s opinion and to be polite to others, as he was here. However, tolerance is a two-way street. Our son is entitled to properly express his faith and beliefs without being disciplined and suspended by Plainwell schools. We trust the court will uphold our son’s constitutional rights and his school record will be cleared.