Texas Legal Expert Says Kountze School District Cheerleaders Are Out of Line

Jim Walsh is the managing editor of the Texas School Administrators’ Legal Digest and co-author of The Educator’s Guide to Texas School Law.

In other words, the guy knows what he’s talking about regarding the Kountze High School controversy where cheerleaders are holding up banners with Bible verses on them. Last we heard, a judge had temporarily allowed them to hoist the banners without punishment. The case will be heard again next June.

What does Walsh think about the case?

… If the banner represents a free speech zone for individual student expression, then I suppose that the student who is chosen for a particular game can express whatever view, on whatever subject he or she chooses. Here are some possibilities:

GO TEAM GO. AND SUPPORT THE SCHOOL BOND ELECTION NEXT WEEK!

GET HIGH WITH THE EAGLES: DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA

LET’S WIN TONIGHT: AND LET’S HELP PRESIDENT OBAMA WIN THE ELECTION!

The words expressed on the official Friday night banner are written by cheerleaders acting as representatives of the school district. The football players, also as representatives of the school district, give support to the words by charging onto the field through the banner. It shouldn’t take too long to see that this is not the same as the expression of a single student holding up a sign or painting a scripture verse on his or her face.

When the legal issue was brought to the attention of the superintendent, he did the right thing. He did not ignore the concern, as some would have done, confident that the community would be supportive. He did not take an opinion poll. He did not put it to a vote of the school board — constitutional issues are not decided by majority vote.

I’ve said this before, but if the banners cited the Koran instead of the Bible, the Kountze community would have put a stop to them a long time ago. They’re letting it slide only because the Bible verses go hand-in-hand with their personal beliefs. The courts haven’t ruled in their favor — they just haven’t ruled against them yet — and I’m still confident they’ll follow the law in the summer.

(Thanks to Brian for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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