Supreme Court to hear high school student speech case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in November to hear arguments in a Texas case involving the right of students to pray before high school football games.

The case arose after two unnamed students at the school challenged Santa Fe\nSchool District’s policy of allowing what the school claims are “student-led, student-initiated” prayers prior to school football games. The students claimed the practice violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and in February ruled that the practice must stop.

A ruling by the Supreme Court could have far-reaching effects on the right of students to speak on religious topics in other school-related contexts, including in the student media.

The Student Press Law Center plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case urging the court to allow students to cover religious topics in student media – just as they would any other newsworthy topic – where it is shown that the speech was not the result of coercion or the direct effort of school officials.

Oral arguments in the case are expected to be scheduled for late March, with a decision due by the end of June.

Case: Santa Fe School District v. Doe, 99-62