An attorney for a group of Kountze cheerleaders at the center of a freedom of speech vs religion in schools controversy told 12News that the Ninth Court of Appeals has skirted the issue of determining if the case involves free speech of cheerleaders or government speech.
The Ninth District court of appeals has decided that the parent's claims "were rendered moot by Kountze ISD's adoption of a new policy that resolved any live controversy between the parties."
Attorney David Starnes told 12News he will most likely appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court because the Ninth Court of Appeals did not address the key issue. The court did not determine if the student's banners constitute student or the district's speech.
Starnes said the district's policy that says it has oversight over what may or may not be put on the banners would render the banner as government speech. He says because of this, the policy violates the cheerleader's right to free speech.
A spokesperson for the Kountze Independent School District issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
Kountze ISD is pleased with the favorable ruling it received from the Beaumont Court of Appeals in the case about run-through banners at high school football games. Immediately after the controversy developed, the Board of Trustees of Kountze ISD took action to investigate and develop a policy that fit with the law and the needs of the Kountze ISD community. Kountze ISD permits cheerleaders to include a wide variety of appropriate messages on run-through banners, including Scripture quotations. Despite the clear decision of Kountze ISD permitting the banners, the plaintiffs' attorneys continued to press this lawsuit against the school district, asking for a judgment and an award of money against the school district. The decision of the Beaumont Court of Appeals makes clear that Kountze ISD took action to resolve this controversy and that there was no reason to enter a judgment against the school district.
President and CEO of Liberty Institute issues the following statement:
"The district court and our state's leading lawyers and officials, such as Attorney General Abbott, former Attorney General John Cornyn, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Solicitor General Jim Ho, all agree that the school district violated the cheerleaders' constitutional freedoms and religious liberties, and granted them relief for that reason. The Court of Appeals did not disagree with any of that. While we are grateful we have won on behalf of these cheerleaders and their right to quote the Bible in their school district, why shouldn't future cheerleaders in Kountze and other school districts receive the same protection?"