OREGON — The Bend-La Pine School District did not violatethe First Amendment rights of a student expelled for distributingan underground newspaper at school, the state Court of Appealsruled Aug. 30.
Chris Pangle was a junior at Mountain View High School in Bendin 1997 when he was expelled for handing out copies of his independentpublication OUTSIDE! to other students at the school. Thepublication included an article describing how to explode toiletsand take over the school intercom system as well as a list ofteachers’ names, addresses and telephone numbers.
Although the distribution of OUTSIDE! did not resultin any actual disruption at Mountain View, the court ruled thatbecause Pangle "advocated specific methods for causing personalinjury, property damage and the disruption of school activities"the school district reasonably could have believed that the publicationwould substantially interfere with the work of the school or impingeupon the rights of other students.
"The exercise of appropriate discipline to deter disruptiveforces within the school environment is consistent with FirstAmendment rights as are constitutional limitations on free speechin other environments, such as constraints on yelling "Fire!"in a crowded movie theater," Judge Walt Edmonds said in theopinion.
But in his dissent, Judge Rex Armstrong said "there isno evidence that Chris or anyone else engaged in, or planned orprepared to engage in, any of the suggested conduct the majorityquotes."
"The newspaper was not the equivalent of crying ‘fire’in a crowded theater," Armstrong said.
Jonathan Hoffman, Pangle’s attorney, said he will appeal thecase to the Oregon Supreme Court.
A copy of the decision in this case is available on the OregonJudicial Department’s Web site at: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A100163.htm.