Student fights principal’s restrictions for writing letters to Texas paper

TEXAS — A high school sophomore who claims his schoolsuperintendent squelched his First Amendment rights filed a lawsuit last month against the superintendent in federal court.

Justin Latimer, a 16-year-old student at Crosbyton High School,claimed Superintendent Larry Morris verbally berated him and prohibitedhim from writing any letters to a local newspaper without priorpermission.

The alleged incident occurred on Sept. 21, when Morris calledLatimer to his office after a letter to the editor making referenceto the school’s band program appeared in the Crosby CountyNews and Chronicle.

Latimer wrote the letter to express his disappointment thatthe band director canceled plans to perform "Amazing Grace"at a football game. The song was to be a tribute to the victimsof the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"I am a member of the Crosbyton High School band and amdeeply saddened by the fact that the band was not allowed to play’Amazing Grace’ in honor of those who died in the recent terroristattacks against America," Latimer’s letter said.

Morris called Latimer out of class and told him in his officethat the letter had "hurt the school, the band and Morrispersonally," the lawsuit states. In his office and with theband director present, Morris allegedly reduced Latimer to tearsbefore warning him not to write any more letters without firstseeking his and the band director’s approval, the lawsuit states.

"We’ve done nothing wrong," Morris said. "Thatwill be proven in court."

The suit seeks a temporary injunction preventing Morris fromrestraining Latimer’s speech, and nominal and punitive damages,said Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association Centerfor Law & Policy in Tupelo, Miss., one of two attorneys handlingLatimer’s case.

"This is censorship, pure and simple," Crampton said."If the First Amendment means anything, it means a governmentofficial may not dictate the content of private speech."