UMLC Secures Major Victory in Free Speech Case Against Lakeville School District

Today, the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) won a major victory for its clients against the Lakeville School District. The federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court in Cajune v. Independent School District 194, holding that the Lakeville School District could not pass off Black Lives Matter posters in its hallways and classrooms as “government speech,” and that the district engaged in “impermissible viewpoint discrimination” against the plaintiffs, Bob and Cynthia Cajune, Kalynn Kay Aaker, and her minor children.

The plaintiffs, who are local taxpayers, parents, and students represented by UMLC, filed the lawsuit in 2023 against the Lakeville School District because the school district allows the posting of Black Lives Matter posters but does not allow alternative messages such as Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. The school district moved to dismiss, arguing that its adoption of Black Lives Matter posters is government speech and not subject to the First Amendment’s prohibition on viewpoint discrimination. In the federal District Court, Judge Jerry Blackwell ordered dismissal in August 2023.

The 8th Circuit reversed and reinstated the case. It held that the BLM posters were not “government speech.” Instead, they were expressions of private BLM activists on which the District merely “affix[ed] a government seal of approval.” The Court then said that the District admits, per its “government speech” defense, that it discriminated against the plaintiffs’ viewpoint by allowing Black Lives Matter posters but refusing to allow All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter posters.

“This is a huge victory for free speech and a serious blow to government efforts to pass off private activist speech as its own,” said James Dickey, Senior Counsel for the Upper Midwest Law Center. “The government cannot put its thumb on the scale in favor of Black Lives Matter activists against all other speech on issues of race in America. If Minnesota’s school districts are going to open up their hallways and classrooms to private speech, they must do so without discrimination, or not do it. We call upon the Lakeville School District to take the Court’s message and end its discriminatory policy.” 

The case will likely return to the District of Minnesota, but the scope of the case will be limited according to the 8th Circuit’s decision. Now with this important decision that prevents the Lakeville School District from hiding behind the “government speech” doctrine, it is likely that the District will either permit UMLC’s clients’ alternative posters, or will return to its policy of strict neutrality, and that other Districts will be obliged to follow suit.

Click here to see the decision by the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

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