Judge erases suspensions from student preacher’s record

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) – A federal judge erased three suspensions from the school record of an Everett student who preached and handed out Christian booklets.

Cascade High School senior Michael Leal filed a lawsuit against Everett Public Schools last November, saying his constitutional right of free speech was being infringed. School officials said he was suspended for being disruptive, not for the content of his message.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly on Friday expunged Leal’s suspensions while upholding a school district policy that limits when and where students can hand out printed materials, The Herald of Everett reported.

The district policy says that students can only do so before or after the hours of instruction, and only outside the entrances of the school.

The judge, however, tossed out a district requirement that the printed material be written or produced by the student. “The court found that was unconstitutional because he wouldn’t be able to pass out the Constitution or Shakespeare,” said Leal’s attorney, Kevin Snider.

To accommodate Leal, the school has created a free speech zone on campus near the statue of the school’s mascot – a bear. It’s a spot where any student can speak about anything. “He can preach under the bear,” Snider said.

Sarah Heineman, the attorney for the school district, said the administration was pleased its policy was upheld. No decision has been made whether to appeal Zilly’s rejection of the authorship requirement, she said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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