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Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
624 F.3d 332 (2010)


Facts

Shelley Evans-Marshall (plaintiff) was an English teacher for the Tipp City Board of Education (board) (defendant). During the 2001–2002 school year, Evans-Marshall assigned Fahrenheit 451 as a reading assignment. Afterward, Evans-Marshall divided the class into groups and had the groups choose a book from a list of the most frequently challenged books, compiled by the American Library Association. Two groups chose Heather Has Two Mommies. The board received a parent complaint about the book, and the principal told Evans-Marshall to have the groups choose a different book. Evans-Marshall complied and then assigned Siddhartha as the next book for the whole class to read and discuss. Evans-Marshall wanted the class to discuss spirituality, Buddhism, romantic relationships, personal growth, and familial relationships. During the October 2001 meeting of the board, parents complained about several books in the school’s curriculum and library. The parents spoke for over an hour and focused on Siddhartha. One group of parents presented a petition with 500 signatures calling for decency and excellence in the classroom. Following the meeting, Evans-Marshall asked a school staff member to make copies of examples of student writing samples that were given to students who had asked for additional guidance. One sample contained a first-hand account of a rape, and one sample was a story about a young boy who murdered a priest and desecrated a church. The school principal discovered these samples and confronted Evans-Marshall. The principal directed Evans-Marshall not to use those samples. A few months later, the board decided not to renew Evans-Marshall’s contract for the following school year. The board held a formal hearing on the nonrenewal at Evan-Marshall’s request. After the hearing, the board again voted against renewing Evan-Marshall’s contract. Evans-Marshall sued the board, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right to select books and methods of instruction for use in the classroom without interference from public officials. The trial court ruled in favor of the board, and Evans-Marshall appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sutton, J.)

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