Frudden v. Pilling

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 02-14-2014
  • Case #: 12-15403
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judge N. Smith and Senior District Judge Quist
  • Full Text Opinion

A public elementary school's uniform policy that requires displaying the school's written leadership motto and provides a content based exemption for nationally recognized youth organizations unconstitutionally compels a student's speech and is subject to strict scrutiny review.

Mary and Jon Frudden, parents of two students at the Roy Gomm Elementary School ("RGES"), challenged the uniform policy claiming it violated the First Amendment and compelled speech about leadership because it mandated the motto "Tomorrow's Leaders" to be displayed on the shirts. Additionally, the policy provided an exemption for students to wear uniforms of nationally recognized youth organizations, such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, on days the organizations held meetings. However, when the Frudden children attended school wearing American Youth Soccer Organization ("AYSO") uniforms to school, which regularly held meets Monday through Friday, the children were repeatedly pulled out of class and instructed to change into the RGES uniform. In 2011, the Fruddens filed a § 1983 claim in the district court alleging the mandatory uniform policy violated the First Amendment. However, the court, guided by Jacobs v. Clark County School District, granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). The panel reversed and remanded because it found that the RGES policy differs from the one in Jacobs: RGES's written motto compels students to express a particular viewpoint about leadership. Further, RGES incorporated a content-based exemption by allowing only nationally recognized youth organizations uniforms to be worn on the days of regularly scheduled meetings, which is therefore not content-neutral. Because the policy implicates First Amendment protections, it is subject to strict scrutiny. The panel remanded to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of RGES's countervailing interests and whether the policy forces a student to be an instrument of fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view he finds unacceptable. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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