A federal judge has ordered a Washington school to erase the suspension records of a student who distributed Gospel literature and preached in school.
Michael Leal, a senior, was suspended by Cascade High School in Everett three times last October for violation of school policy. He sued the school last November and was represented by the Pacific Justice Institute.
"Plaintiff's suspensions on October 2, 9, and 31, 2014, are vacated. Defendant shall remove the Notices of Disciplinary Action or Short Term Suspension dated October 2, 9, and 31, 2014, from his record," US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly wrote in his decision and awarded Leal $1 as nominal damage.
The court declared unconstitutional the school district's policy that any literature distributed should be written or made by the student.
"Defendant is hereby enjoined from enforcing the requirement that materials be 'written and/or produced by students.' That language is severed from the Policy and Procedure of the Everett Public Schools," the court ordered.
Zilly, however, upheld the school's policy to determine when and where the literature should be distributed.
"Today's win is a well-deserved graduation present to our client. He should not have been suspended for simply handing other students Gospel tracts, and today's ruling is a vindication of our efforts on his behalf," said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute.
After the lawsuit was filed, the school created a "free speech zone" where students can express their views.
"Some people speak about other things. I speak about God. But in the end we're all speaking and we all have that freedom of speech," Leal told PJI. "I think it's important that we all have free speech even in high school."
He said it's important for the whole world to hear the Gospel.
"Everyone needs to hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's absolutely necessary," he said.
Leal is set to graduate on June 10.