C.F. v. Capistrano Unified School District

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 08-19-2011
  • Case #: 09-56689
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judge Tashima and Chief District Judge Wolf
  • Full Text Opinion

The law regarding violations of the Establishment Clause by a teacher’s comments is not clearly established and broad claims that such comments were hostile to religion are not particularized enough to deny qualified immunity to teachers.

C.F. was a 15-year-old high school student who took an AP Eurpoean History course within the Capistrano Unified School District (District). During the course, the teacher made two comments that the student viewed as hostile and disparaging to his religion. C.F. filed § 1983 claims against the District, alleging violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment against both parties. Both parties appealed. The Ninth Circuit first addressed the issue as to whether the teacher should have been granted qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit noted there have yet to be any cases where a teacher has been held liable for comments made that were hostile to religion. The Ninth Circuit held that since the law regarding teacher violations of the Establishment Clause has yet to be made clear, the broad generalized claims made by C.F. are not sufficient to deny qualified immunity to the teacher. AFFIRMED in part, VACATED in part.

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