Winter 2014

Advertising in Schools

In October 2013, the Superintendent of Lubbock ISD denied a request by Little Pencil, LLC, to advertise on the jumbotron at the district’s football stadium.  The requested advertisement consisted of an image of a tattooed Jesus Christ and the website address  Little Pencil claimed that the district’s denial was impermissible viewpoint discrimination against its religious message. The company sued the district in federal district court alleging that the school district’s policies and practices violated its First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion and denied it due process and equal protection of the law.  The district asserted that its jumbotron was not intended as a public forum, and it reserved the right to refuse to run any advertisement.  The district defended its decision by pointing out that tattoos are illegal for minors and a violation of both the student dress code and employee handbook.

On May 29, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Lubbock granted Lubbock ISD’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, holding that the district’s jumbotron was a limited public forum and that the district’s rejection of the advertisement was reasonable in light of the purpose of the forum and the venue in which the forum was located.  The court also upheld policy GKB(LOCAL) finding that it was not unconstitutionally vague.  The Court was satisfied that the policy sufficiently restrained the Superintendent so as to prevent abuse by “unfettered discretion.”  

Little Pencil, LLC v. Lubbock Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 5:14-CV-014-C (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas—Lubbock Division). LAF’s Attorney:  S. Anthony Safi—Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi, Paxson & Galatzan, P.C., El Paso