World History Curriculum Not Violative of Student’s First Amendment Rights

A panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a student's Establishment Clause and Free Speech Clause challenges to curricular statements concerning Islamic beliefs. The statements were presented as part of a high school world history class. The student asserted that public school officials used the statements to endorse Islam over Christianity and force the student to profess a belief in Islam. While the Court affirmed that school authorities are charged with the responsibility of deciding what speech is appropriate in the classroom, it curiously seemed to suggest that "academic freedom" of teachers also animated these views, citing to cases in the higher education context but not citing at that point in the opinion to the Court's own en banc decision in the Boring case. Boring v. Buncombe County Bd. of Educ., 136 F.3d 364 (4th Cir. 1998) (en banc). In Boring, the en banc decision concluded:

"Someone must fix the curriculum of any school, public or private.  In the case of a public school, in our opinion, it is far better public policy, absent a valid statutory directive on the subject, that the makeup of the curriculum be entrusted to the local school authorities who are in some sense responsible, rather than to the teachers, who would be responsible only to the judges, had they a First Amendment right to participate in the makeup of the curriculum." Id. at 371.

To read the panel's decision, click here: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/181430.P.pdf