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CONSTITUTIONAL LAW Though elementary school students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, school administrators have greater leeway in restricting those rights when they disrupt or threaten the safety of other students, the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held on April 15 in a first impression case. Walker-Serrano v. Leonard, No. 01-4098. Amanda Walker-Serrano, a 9-year-old third-grader at Lackawanna Trail Elementary School in Pennsylvania, brought a petition to school to protest an upcoming field trip to the circus, saying the circus treated animals cruelly. The girl gathered several signatures at recess, though she was told to put the petition away when a curious child slipped on nearby ice and when Walker-Serrano tried to get signatures in class. She was, however, allowed to circulate coloring books and stickers about circus animals. The district court dismissed the girl’s lawsuit, saying that there had been no First Amendment violation. The 3d Circuit agreed. The court said that the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., which upheld the right of high school students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam war, applied to elementary school students, though in a modified form. “When officials have a legitimate educational reason-whether grounded on the need to preserve order, to facilitate learning or social development, or to protect the interests of other students-they may ordinarily regulate public elementary school children’s speech.”

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