Do young children have First Amendment rights? Federal judges in New Orleans will hear a case Monday morning that could answer that question. Dubbed the ‘Candy Cane Case,’ it all started when a student in the Plano Independent School District was told that he was not allowed to hand out candy canes with religious messages attached.
Officials with the Plano ISD said that they were simply following a district-wide policy that prevents students from distributing religious materials. But as a result, a group of families sued the school district.
The 2004 lawsuit lists several examples of students being prohibited from promoting their beliefs. The young boy was told that he could not pass out candy canes that were tagged with religious messages. In another instance, a little girl was threatened for handing out tickets to an after-school play with a religious theme. Students were also told not to write the words “Merry Christmas” on cards being sent to troops serving overseas.
Since there's no indication that this caused a "disruption to the learning environment" the district's policy was wrong. No, children don't have the same 1st Amendment rights as adults do, but we should restrict those rights only as much as is needed to maintain the learning environment.