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Student Booted In Bible Flap Suing School District

Publication Date: 
March 31, 2011
Source: 
San Diego Union-Tribune
Author: 
Nathan Max

Professor Michael McConnell is quoted by Nathan Max in the San Diego Union-Tribune on whether there is a legitimate basis for a school suspending a student for bringing a Bible to campus.

A student who claims he was suspended for talking about Christianity to classmates and banned from bringing his Bible to campus has filed a federal lawsuit against an East County school district.

An attorney for Kenneth Dominguez, 16, said the Grossmont Union High School District infringed on his client’s Constitutional rights. However, an attorney representing the district countered that Dominguez was suspended because of “an incredible amount of disruptive behavior,” not because of his religious fervor.

The case, which is attracting attention in the Christian community, is taking place in a district that is run by a board dominated by religious conservatives.

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According to the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District, school officials cannot punish students for exercising their freedom of speech unless they can show it was disruptive, said Michael W. McConnell, the director of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center.

McConnell, a Stanford Law School professor and former judge on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals from 2002 to 2009, said the case sounds like a factual dispute. However, he added, “I don’t see what the legitimate basis could be for not letting him bring his Bible.”

McConnell said for a school to deny a student from bringing a book to campus, whether it be the Bible or any other piece of literature, it would need “strong justification.”

An extreme circumstance would be if a student had a mental disorder in which he or she had a compulsion to read the book out loud and disrupted other students. In that case, McConnell said, the best solution could be to prevent the student from bringing the book to school.