Appeals court will not stop Missouri student bloggers’ return to school

Two Missouri high school students suspended for crude blog posts will be back at school Monday after a federal appeals court refused to delay their return.

In an order late Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a stay of a lower court judge’s decision sending Sean and Steven Wilson back to Lee’s Summit North High School. The students created a blog called North Press in December that included racial epithets and sexually explicit comments about a female student. One post called a student “the biggest bitch in the whole school.”

School officials suspended the Wilsons for 180 days and sent them to an alternative school. U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs ordered the students reinstated to Lee’s Summit North beginning April 9, while the students’ free speech lawsuit against the school district continues. The district asked the Eighth Circuit to delay their return while it appealed the ruling.

Judge Michael Melloy dissented from the appeals court’s order Friday and would have granted the stay.

Attorneys for both sides could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was unclear how the case would proceed. Sachs did not decide the merits of the Wilsons’ First Amendment lawsuit. And while the appeal of Sachs’ preliminary ruling remains active, a win for the district would simply send the Wilsons back to the alternative school during the next round of legal wrangling.