C.R. v. Eugene Sch. Dist. 4J, No. 13-35856 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
C.R. challenged his suspension, for sexually harassing two younger students, in district court under the First Amendment. C.R. argued that because the harassment occurred off-campus, in a public park, the school lacked the authority to discipline him. C.R. also challenged his suspension on due process grounds. The district court granted the school district's motion for summary judgment. The court upholds a school’s disciplinary determinations so long as the school’s interpretation of its rules and policies is reasonable, and there is evidence to support the charge. In this case, the school administration’s investigation uncovered at least some evidence that C.R. participated in sexually suggestive joking directed at the younger students. The court concluded that the school district's characterization of this behavior as sexual harassment in its Student Handbook is reasonable. Thus, the court deferred to the school district’s determination that C.R. participated in sexual harassment. The court concluded that the school district had the authority to discipline C.R. for his off-campus, sexually harassing speech where the speech occurred exclusively between students, in close temporal and physical proximity to the school, on property that is not obviously demarcated from the campus itself. The court concluded that a school may act to ensure students are able to leave the school safely without implicating the rights of students to speak freely in the broader community. The court also concluded that the school district's decision to suspend C.R. for two days for sexual harassment was permissible under Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. because sexually harassing speech, by definition, interferes with the victims' ability to feel safe and secure at school. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the school district on C.R.'s First Amendment claims. Finally, the district court correctly concluded that the school district afforded C.R. all the process that he was due and that C.R. failed to raise any viable substantive due process claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety.