2nd Circuit upholds middle school’s exclusion of religious blessing from student’s speech at school ceremony

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In A.M. v. Taconic Hills Central Hills School District, (2d Cir., Jan. 30, 2013), the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a free speech claim by a middle school student, the co-president of student council, who was not permitted to include a religious blessing at the end of her remarks at the school’s Moving-Up Ceremony. The court concluded that the Ceremony was a school-sponsored expressive activity and that the student’s speech would be perceived as being endorsed by the school. It held that under the standard set out by the Supreme Court in its Hazelwood opinion, requiring the student to remove the purely religious content from her speech was reasonably related to the legitimate pedagogical concern of avoiding a violation of the Establishment Clause.