Student Athlete’s Right to Kneel during National Anthem Protected by the First Amendment

January 2018
Number 2

A federal district court in California has granted a preliminary injunction blocking a school district’s policy requiring student athletes to stand during the national anthem at school sporting events.

In V.A. v. San Pasqual Valley Unified School District, the Southern District of California court ruled that kneeling in silent protest is a form of student symbolic speech protected under the First Amendment.

Background

During the first game of the 2017 varsity football season, which was played at the plaintiff student’s school, high school senior V.A. performed a silent protest by kneeling during the national anthem. After doing the same at the team’s second game, which was played at an Arizona high school, students from the opposing team’s school approached students from plaintiff’s school, made racial slurs, threatened to force plaintiff to stand, and sprayed water on the students, striking a nearby cheerleader. After receiving feedback from the community, parents and staff that included concerns about safety, the superintendent issued a memorandum to all of the district’s coaches with a new directive requiring student athletes to stand during the national anthem. The memorandum added that kneeling, sitting or any similar form of political protest could result in removal from the team and from subsequent athletic teams for the remainder of the school year.

The court granted a preliminary injunction in the student’s favor. In doing so, it relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s preeminent student speech opinion,Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which established the principle that students do not shed their free speech rights in school and may exercise such rights absent a material and substantial disruption to the educational environment. Like the students inTinker, who wore black armbands in silent protest of the Vietnam War, the student plaintiff’s silent kneeling did not rise to a level of material interference with or substantial disruption of school activities. The court explained that any threat to student safety was diminished by the district’s agreement to no longer play the Arizona school in sports.

Takeaways

While the preliminary injunction was issued by a federal district court and is thus not binding on all California school districts, the court’s reasoned analysis appears well supported by legal authority and reinforces the idea that, when it comes to student free speech, a school has less deference to restrict speech that expresses a student’s personal opinion. Notably, the V.A. ruling is the first of its kind with regard to K-12 students since the recent spate of silent protests that players have made during professional and college sporting events.

For more information about this ruling or on addressing student free speech rights in general, please contact an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Sloan R. Simmons

Partner

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

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Tax Bill Eliminates Advance Refunding Opportunities

January 2018
Number 1

On December 22, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, putting into place the most sweeping tax reform seen in three decades, including significant cuts to corporate and individual tax rates. The new law also effectively eliminates a critical tool local agencies have long used to save taxpayers money.

The tax bill eliminated the tax-exempt status of advance refunding bonds, effectively ending their use by local government agencies. Local agencies may still issue them, but the interest is no longer tax exempt for bondholders. The revocation of this long-standing subsidy eliminates a tool that local government agencies, including school and community college districts, have used to restructure existing debt and provide savings to taxpayers.

An advance refunding occurs when issuers replace outstanding bonds with new bonds with a lower interest rate before payment of the original bonds is fully due. Borrowers advance refund their outstanding debt to take advantage of a favorable interest rate environment. Such an approach results not only in a reduction of borrowing costs, but may also free up resources for new projects.

Since 1986, federal tax law has permitted governmental bonds to be advance refunded once. Under the new tax bill, one of the key advantages to advance refundings-tax exempt status- will no longer exist.

Lozano Smith has expertise in public finance matters, serving as bond counsel on more than $1 billion in school district and community college district bond issues. Lozano Smith will be conducting school bond workshops across the state, covering topics that include:

  • Elections: Timelines and requirements
  • Bonds: Types, validity and tax treatment
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Committees, consultants, and counsel
  • Disclosure and Record Keeping: Regulations and legal considerations
  • Statewide Bond: Matching and impact

If you have any questions regarding the tax bill’s impact on your agency, please contact an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.