Sanguine v. Westley School for the Undead

Sanguine v. Westley School for the Undead,  283 F.3d 203.

STOKER, Circuit Judge.

OPINION OF THE COURT.

In this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Vlad Sanguine seeks monetary damages to compensate him for the 2008 decision of the Westley School for the Undead to expel him from high school after he was found carrying a cross to school. Sanguine argues that the School’s action violated his right to expression of religion; the School argues that its action was necessary for school safety.

The district court’s judgement is AFFIRMED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In the fall of 2008, Vlad Sanguine was a student at the Westley School for the Undead. On October 30, he came to school carrying a five-inch wooden cross with the inscription “Cathedral of St. John Calvin.” Sanguine testified that he received the cross from a friend and he himself had never been to that cathedral, as he cannot set foot on hallowed ground.

The School expelled Sanguine for bringing a dangerous weapon to school in violation of their zero-tolerance policy. State law encourages such policies, requiring schools to institute procedures that “impose swift, certain and severe disciplinary sanctions on any student” who “brings a dangerous weapon” onto school property, or “[p]ossesses a dangerous weapon” on school property. The parties have stipulated that a cross may cause intense fear to many of the students at the Westley School if they see it, and physical pain on contact.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In April of 2009, Sanguine’s sire and guardian initiated an action on Sanguine’s behalf in the United States District Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After reaching legal majority, Sanguine was substituted as the plaintiff. Sanguine claimed that his expulsion violated his right to free expression of religion.

The School moved for summary judgement, on the grounds that Sanguine, like many of the more vampiric students and faculty at the Westley School, is a thing of Satan and therefore cannot be a Christian, meaning that the religious belief Sanguine expressed is not one that he sincerely held. The district court granted this motion.

Sanguine appealed this judgement, and this court held that it was in error. The statement that something is “of the devil” is a theological question, which it is not the function of the district court to answer. After the case was remanded, the district court found that while the belief was sincerely held, this is outweighed by the fact that the School’s decision was necessary to maintain safety of its campus. On appeal, this court agreed to review that question de novo.

III. ANALYSIS.

Precedent has established in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist. that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” It is against this background that we turn to consider the level of First Amendment protection accorded to Sanguine’s actions in inflicting a dangerous object on a high school attended by hundreds of students who could have been harmed.

It has been affirmed repeatedly that students’ rights are more limited than those of adults. As Justice Burger wrote in Bethel v. Fraser (478 U.S. 675),

“In New Jersey v.T. L. O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985), we reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings. As cogently expressed by Judge Newman, “the First Amendment gives a high school student the classroom right to wear Tinker’s armband, but not Cohen’s jacket.””

If a school can prohibit a student wearing a jacket with an obscene message even if that message is political in nature, then it must also be acceptable to prohibit expression of a religious message if that message is itself intrinsically dangerous.

A Westley School disciplinary rule prohibits “conduct which significantly interferes with the educational process.” Similar rules have been upheld in courts (Bethel v. Fraser, supra.) Sanguine’s conduct was in bringing a cross to a school full of children who would be put at risk by it. It is uncontroverted that that religious symbol of self-sacrifice and eternal life causes harm to undead creatures who prolong their own existence by draining others’. Where many of those individuals are students, this would necessarily put those students in danger and disrupt the school environment.

In addition to their duty to educate, schools act in loco parentis. Given this enormous responsibility, and the potentially devastating consequences of weapons on campus, a strict weapons policy can be a necessary measure to protect students. In this case, while the cross was not intended as a weapon, it could easily injure some of the students or disrupt classes by its mere presence. For the reasons set forth above, we AFFIRM the decision of the district court.

(Later) 

Sanguine v. Westley School, Supreme Court of the United States, PER CURIAM.

OPINION OF THE COURT:

Vampires don’t exist. Reversed.

NOTE: Philosophy won’t let me claim credit for all of this, because since I am a lazy person some parts of this have been taken directly from actual court cases (especially Seal v. Morgan and Bethel v. Fraser.) Those parts are mostly ones that don’t involve vampires. Since I am a lazy non-lawyer, this should not be taken as any kind of representation of what an actual court would say. Before bringing a cross to a school full of vampires, consult a lawyer.

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