Taryn MacKinney is an Executive Editor of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal and a student at the University of Pennsylvania.
A recent Colorado lawsuit has sparked controversy over religious expression in public schools. Chase Windebank, a Colorado Springs high school student, is suing his school district for what he deemed a violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Though the lawsuit – still in its infancy – has already generated intense debate, the topic isn’t new; the issue of free speech in schools has been battled out for decades in courts. Since the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines (1965) case, which ruled in favor of student rights when it claimed that neither “students [nor] teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate,” the Supreme Court and circuit courts have ruled erratically.  In Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986), Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988), and Morse v. Frederick (2007), the Supreme Court refined Tinker by adding parameters to student free speech. In B.H. v. Easton Area School District (2014), however, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed this decades-long trend by upholding the rights of students to wear controversial breast cancer bracelets; the Supreme Court rejected the School District’s appeal, solidifying the stance taken by the lower court.  Now, only a little more than a year after B.H. v. Easton, the Windebank lawsuit promises to stir things up again.