Another Victory for Student Rights: School Officials Settle Case With Student After Prohibiting Her From Distributing Invitations to After-School Church Event

Feb 2, 2005

Yesterday, the Broward County School District ("District") entered into a settlement agreement with Christine Curran and her father. The Currans originally filed suit against the District after Christine was denied the right to distribute an invitation to an after-school church event to her fellow classmates. The Settlement Agreement mandates that the District adopt a new policy and pay attorney's fees and costs incurred in the lawsuit. Christine is represented by Erik Stanley, Chief Counsel for Liberty Counsel, and Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious liberties, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.

Christine, a student at Driftwood Middle School in Hollywood, Florida, took flyers to school to pass out to her friends. The flyers were invitations to hear a Christian youth speaker at her church, were not offensive and would not cause a disruption. As Christine was handing out the flyers between classes, a teacher saw her and told her she could not distribute the flyers unless she complied with the District Policy, or she would be "written up."

The District Policy required all students to submit literature to a school administrator for approval before distributing the literature to fellow students. The Policy contained no standards to govern the discretion of the administrator in determining whether to allow or prohibit literature distribution. Worse yet, the Policy contained no time limits for granting or denying a request to distribute literature, thereby allowing an administrator to effectively deny a student's right to free speech by not acting on the request. The new Policy cures these defects by placing a strict time limit on a school administrator's response to a request to distribute literature. The new Policy also prevents an administrator from denying a request to distribute literature simply because of disagreement with the literature.

Mat Staver commented, "The District's old Policy lacked guidelines and thus allowed for blatant censorship of religious viewpoints, even to the point of prohibiting a student from distributing an invitation to her church. Students do not shed their right of free speech at the schoolhouse gate. Therefore, schools must be governed by strict standards in responding to a request to distribute literature. The District's new Policy protects students' rights by limiting the ability of a school administrator to prohibit student literature distribution. I am pleased to see that the School District has agreed to respect the First Amendment rights of its students."