Appeals court ruling in favor of Kountze cheerleaders could be last down in battle over banners

BEAUMONT - The clock could be running out on the battle over religious banners at Southeast Texas high school football games after a Texas appeals court issued an opinion in favor of the Kountze cheerleaders Thursday.

In issuing its opinion the Ninth District of Texas Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the cheerleaders and overruled all issues appealed by the Kountze Independent School District.

The case of Coti Matthews, on behalf of her child Macy Matthews, against the school district centered around the question of whose speech was on the "run-through banners" at the school games.

MORE | Read the full opinion from the Ninth District Court of Appeals

The question boiled down to... Were the religious messages on the banners speech by the cheerleaders who created them or were the messages speech by the district? 

The case was filed in 2012 as a result of a complaint about the religious messages on the banners at Kountze High School football games.

The Ninth Court of Appeals ruled that the speech is that of the cheerleaders.

"It's a clear victory for the cheerleaders. The Ninth Court of Appeals held that because the students select the message each week and not the school, the statements on the run-through banners must be categorized as pure private speech of the cheerleaders," said Attorney David Starnes who represents a former student who was a cheerleader when the controversy began.

"That is the most salient point in the 44 pages," he added.

Starnes said Thursday’s opinion by the court could end the legal wrangling but attorneys representing the district do have the option to file another appeal to the state’s supreme court.

© 2017 KBMT-TV


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