TRI In The News
Hudson Conservative Club Prevails in Case Against School
From MetroWest Daily News
Original article available here.
HUDSON--A legal battle that pitted a Hudson High alum against school officials in U.S. District Court over the infringement of freedom of speech rights appears to be over.
Lawyers for Christopher Bowler, a former Hudson High student, and the Hudson school district's attorneys have agreed to a settlement that would "amend school policies to forbid censorship of student expression on the basis of political viewpoint,'' according to a statement of The Rutherford Institute, the civil rights advocacy group that provided pro bono legal defense for Bowler.
The removal of posters promoting a high school Conservative Club in Dec. 2004 prompted Bowler - then a senior - to take the school to court the following spring. Bowler, in an attempt to stir interest for the newly formed club, hung the posters, which featured a Web site address to a national high school conservative club organization.
School officials said they removed the posters because that Web site contained a link to Iraqi war beheadings.
Bowler, however, maintained the posters were taken down, not to shield students from grotesque imagery, but because school officials disagreed with the politics of the right-wing site.
The settlement is tantamount to an admission of wrongdoing from a school district that prides itself on being one of 11 "First Amendment Schools" in the nation - a distinction that is supposed to reflect the school's commitment to civic life and citizenship - said John Whitehead, president and founder of the Rutherford Institute.
"They were wrong and they knew it,'' said Whitehead.
Whitehead said Bowler did not receive any monetary compensation under the settlement. He did indicate the school district would cover legal costs and attorney fees for Bowler's defense.