Johnson v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., et al., No. 10-55445 (9th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, a high school math teacher, filed suit in federal court alleging that the school district violated his constitutional rights by making him remove banners he displayed in his classroom which referenced "God" and the "Creator." At issue was whether a public school district infringed the First Amendment liberties of plaintiff when it ordered him not to use his public position as a pulpit from which to preach his own views on the role of God in our Nation's history to the captive students in his mathematics classroom. The court agreed with the district court that no genuine issue of material fact remained in the present case. The court held, however, that the district court made a critical error when it determined that the school district had created a limited public forum for teacher speech and evaluated the school district's actions under a traditional forum-based analysis rather than the controlling Pickering-based inquiry. Applying the correct legal principles to the undisputed facts, the court held that the school district was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on each of the claims raised by plaintiff. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with instructions.