Waln v. Dysart Sch. Dist., et. al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 12-09-2022
  • Case #: 21-15737
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Garber, J. for the Court; Owens, J.; and Baker J., partial dissent.
  • Full Text Opinion

A plaintiff must demonstrate an infringement of their rights under the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses.

Defendant ("the District") has a policy prohibiting decoration of graduation caps with secular messages or religious symbols. Defendant prohibited Plaintiff from participating in her high school graduation ceremony because she decorated her graduation cap with a sacred eagle feather, as per her religious and cultural custom. Yet students from other high schools in the district had been allowed other students to have secular messages on their caps. Plaintiff's brought a complaint under the "Free Exercise" clause alleging the District violated of her First Amendment rights by selectively enforcing its policy, making it not "generally applicable."  The district court dismissed with prejudice under FRCP 12(b)(6), for failure to allege a plausible claim reasoning, under the "Free Exercise" and "Free Speech" clauses, a plaintiff must demonstrate an infringement of their rights. The Court found that Plaintiff adequately alleged the District enforced its policies selectively reasoning that Plaintiff demonstrated the school district allowed others to have secular messages, but excluded her for a religious one without appropriate justification. The Court held that Plaintiff "carried the burden" to assert both claims in tandem. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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