Pa. school settles lawsuit over distribution of student’s fliers

PENNSYLVANIA –– The Pennridge School Districthas settled a lawsuit filed by a student who claimed the principal halted hisdistribution of fliers questioning evolution to review their content. The settlement, which was agreed upon at a school board meeting inAugust, required the district to pay Joe Baker $2 in damages plus legal fees. The settlement also required the district to review its policy, which allowsschool administrators to review materials prior to their distribution bystudents. The board met in early September to review the policy andfinalize the settlement. Board members voted to leave the policy unchanged,upholding Pennsylvania’s education code, which states, “Schoolofficials may require students to submit for prior approval a copy of materialsto be displayed, posted or distributed on school property.” Courtsaround the country have disagreed on whether the First Amendment allows schoolofficials to exercise prior review of independent studentpublications.The case began in March 2001 when Baker, then 19, wasprohibited from distributing fliers he wrote which encouraged classmates toquestion their science teachers about evolution. Principal Thomas Creedenhalted Baker’s distribution saying that he violated the school’spolicy by not seeking the administration’s approval. He was later allowedto pass out the fliers. Baker, with the help of the Rutherford Institute, aCharlottesville, Va., civil liberties organization, filed suit in August 2001 tocontest the school’s rule that materials must be reviewed beforedistribution.

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