A Vermont school district violated a seventh grader’s free speech rights when it forced him to cover up images of drugs and alcohol on a T-shirt ridiculing President Bush, a unanimous panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week.

Wading into a murky area of the law, the panel, in resolving an issue of first impression in the circuit, ruled that a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing school authorities to ban “plainly offensive” messages was not applicable to this case.

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