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Supreme Court refuses challenge to school dress code

The Supreme Court Monday declined to take up a student's challenge to a Texas school dress code. An appeals court ruling said the policy, which bars non-school-related messages on clothing, did not violate student free-speech rights.

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The US Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of a Texas high school student who was barred from wearing a T-shirt to school with “Freedom of Speech” printed on the front and the text of the First Amendment on the back.

At issue was whether a public school dress code that bans all printed messages except those approved by school officials violated high school students’ free speech rights.

The high court dismissed the case without comment. That leaves in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the school’s policy, expanding the power of school administrators to ban student speech in instances where the restrictions are deemed content-neutral.

The dispute began in 2007 when Paul Palmer, then a sophomore at Waxahachie High School, showed up in class wearing a T-shirt with “San Diego” written on it. An assistant principal informed him that school policy prohibited shirts with written messages.

Mr. Palmer called his parents. They brought him a new shirt. This one proclaimed: “John Edwards for President ’08.”

When school officials rejected that shirt too, Palmer sued, asking a federal judge to enforce his free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The judge dismissed the suit when the school district adopted a new dress code. The new policy permitted written messages promoting school organizations, events, and teams, but it continued to ban non-school-related messages.


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