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article imageAppeals Court Overturns Nevada's Ruling On Free Expression And School Uniforms

By Nikki Weingartner     May 15, 2008 in World
Federal Appeals Court overturns decision in First Amendment case involving student's right to wear religious logos on her clothing. The Nevada school district claims the student repeatedly violated their uniform policy.
On Monday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California overturned a lower court's ruling against Clark County School District in Nevada over students' freedom of expression and their attire.
Back in 2005, Kimberly Jacobs, who attended a local Nevada High School, was repeatedly suspended for violating a school uniform policy that stated all students must wear plain Khaki coloured bottoms and plain coloured tops. They would only allow a school logo on the tops. Jacobs wore religious shirts promoting her Mormon faith which was in direct violation of the school uniform policy.
Jacobs, other students and the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the school district, claiming that the policy was a violation of their right to freedom of speech and a federal judge ruled in her favour, ordering Clark County to stop the practice of enforcing its uniform policy.
The district appealed the decision to a higher court, who on May 12, 2008, ruled in favour of the school district's policy in a 2 to 1 vote. The appeal's court opined that the school's policy was one that was equally applicable to all students and promoted a learning environment free from religious distractions. There were still places in the school paper and after school activities that allowed from student expression of opinion in such areas:
“creating an educational environment free from the distractions, dangers and disagreements that result when student clothing choices are left unrestricted”
The ACLU prosecuting attorney, Allen Lichtenstein, will be asking for the ruling to be retried by a larger panel, since the decision will affect NINE STATES and all school districts within those states, including California. California currently has an "opt out" policy that allows parents to exempt their children from school uniforms.
Nevada does not have an exempt policy and only requires a 55 percent parental approval before uniform policies are enacted.
Oddly enough, the dissenting judge held fast to a 1969 Supreme Court case that allowed students to wear black armbands in protest of Vietnam as long as it did not disrupt the classroom activities. However, the black armbands were initially banned because of a single opinion, whereas in this case, all logos were banned with the exception of the particular school district logos.
Did Kimberly Jacobs have her right to express religious beliefs quashed by this school district's policy that only allowed school logos or plain shirts?
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