Anthony DeMaria of DeMaria Law Firm won an important federal court summary judgment for a school district who revoked graduation ceremony privileges for a student whom had engage in online racial slurs on graduation day. The case, heard in the Eastern District of California (Castro v. Clovis Unified School District, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, Case Number 1:19-CV-00821-DAD-SKO) involved a high senior who posted a racial slur on a social media post, with other school seniors as viewers, hours before graduation. The post was made while the posting senior was at school, on campus and engaged in school activities. Another graduating senior, who is African American, complained to the school administration, was offended by the post and found it to be disruptive to her education, school day and graduation. The school district confirmed that the posting student did graduate and gave him a diploma, but revoked his privilege of participating in the graduation ceremony.
The plaintiff filed a federal lawsuit over being stopped from participating in graduation. In response, the District filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that it was entitled to revoke the privilege of graduation based upon the plaintiff’s on-campus offensive speech. The federal court sided with the District and granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of the District, ruling that the posting of the “N” word, on campus and during a school activity, interfered with the rights of other students to be secure and to be left alone, noting that the speech was made on campus. Regulation of speech made by students while they are off campus and not during school activities would be reviewed under a different standard, but it was established that the speech of this plaintiff, while a social media post, was made while on campus and during school. The court found that the District did not violate the rights of the student plaintiff by revoking the privileges to walk at graduation under these circumstances. The motion filed by DeMaria was granted and Judgement was entered in favor of the District.