We are happy to report that, on Friday, a federal appeals court tossed out a ruling from a lower court regarding a Capistrano Valley High School teacher and a student's First Amendment rights.
Teachers have a duty to TEACH, not pander to students.
In 2007, history teacher James Corbett was sued by then-sophomore Chad Farnan who was part of Corbett's Advanced Placement European History course. Farnan alleged that 22 statements Corbett made during the course were disparaging to Christians, including a statement in which Corbett referred to Creationism and "religious, superstitious nonsense". Sadly, U.S. District Court Judge James Selna, in 2009, ruled that Corbett violated the student's rights with the aforementioned statement, but not the other 21. Farnan appealed, seeking to turn over Corbett's "qualified immunity", granted by Selna and shielding Corbett from paying damages or attorney's fees to Farnan, and to have all 22 statements reconsidered. Corbett's team appealed as well.
On Friday, luckily the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the laws that govern what a teacher can and cannot say about religion are insufficiently clear to indicate whether Corbett violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which courts have interpreted as prohibiting government officials from displaying religious hostility.
But are teachers "government officials"?? They may be technically on the government's payroll, but calling them an official seems like a misnomer. Plus, we agree with constitutional scholar and UC Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who has joined Corbett's legal team, when he says: "This was a really important ruling for academic freedom. There has never been a precedent set for something like this before. Teachers should be able to criticize religion just like they can criticize government, business and similar groups without the fear of being sued."
Although we are not entirely sure of the charges against Corbett on how, exactly, he violated Farnan's First Amendment rights with these statements, another point we'd like to make is: what about the teacher's right to free speech? What about their responsibility to their students in fostering debate and original thought? People in other countries give their lives for free speech, something that we take for granted here.
To read the whole article in the O.C. Register, click here.
If you feel that your First Amendment rights have been violated, or have been a victim of libel or slander, call the Law Offices of Glew & Kim immediately on 866-416-2161, or use our online form for a Free Case Analysis. We believe in equal access to justice for all.
- See more at: http://glewkimlaw.com/blog/2011/08/23/cvhs-teacher-cannot-be-sued-for-alleged-first-amendment-violation/#sthash.Jf2UIofs.dpuf