Court of Appeals Finds Cape Elizabeth High School Student Engaged in Constitutionally Protected Speech

Court of Appeals affirms lower court’s preliminary injunction, blocking the student’s suspension

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
August 7, 2020 11:15 am

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PORTLAND, Maine – The United States First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to block the suspension of a Cape Elizabeth High School student. The school disciplined the student, A.M., when she posted a sticky note to raise awareness about sexual assault at the school. Writing for the Court, Judge Lynch found, the school, “is not permitted to punish a student merely because her speech causes argument on a controversial topic.”

The ACLU of Maine had argued A.M.’s sticky note is constitutionally protected speech, raising awareness on a topic of public significance. The Court agreed with the ACLU’s argument that the school had not shown justification for punishing her.

The following can be attributed to Emma Bond, legal director of the ACLU of Maine: “It is already difficult for survivors and their allies to speak up about sexual assault. The Circuit Court’s decision affirms that schools cannot silence students simply for speaking up on important, but difficult, issues. It affirms the long-established precedent that students do not leave their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.”

The following can be attributed to A.M.: “I’m so thrilled that the Court recognized my advocacy deserves constitutional protection. I hope this ruling helps more students speak up about sexual assault, and other topics that are important to them.”

The entire ruling is available here.

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