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Justices Decline Case About Violent Sketch

By Caroline Hendrie — June 07, 2005 1 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court last week let stand a ruling against a Louisiana high school student who was expelled in connection with a violent sketch that he had drawn at home two years earlier.

East Ascension High School in Gonzales, La., expelled Adam Porter in 2001 after officials became aware of his sketch depicting the 1,100-student school under military-style attack and featuring obscenities, racial epithets, and a disparaging remark about the principal. The picture accidentally came to light after Mr. Porter’s younger brother brought the sketchpad containing it to school.

The family sued the 16,500-student Ascension Parish district and various school officials, contending violations of Mr. Porter’s First Amendment right to free expression, among other claims. A U.S. District Court judge in Baton Rouge, La., found no such violations and dismissed the suit.

On appeal, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, held last December that Mr. Porter’s drawing was protected under the First Amendment and was not a true threat of violence. But it also held that the school principal, the only defendant left in the case by that point, was immune from liability in part because of “the unsettled nature of First Amendment law as applied to off-campus student speech.”

The Supreme Court declined without comment on May 31 to review the family’s appeal in Porter v. Ascension Parish School District (Case No. 04-1393).

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