So I have spent the last week in Boston, walking by the federal courthouse every day (or the Palais de Justice as I like to call it), which has me in a First Circuit mood. A decision on August 11 by our favorite visitor (Justice Souter) has some interesting aspects. Griswold v. Driscoll [http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/getopn.pl?OPINION=09-2002P.01A].
Basically, the message came from the Massachusetts legislature to teach students about the Armenian genocide. So the Commissioner of Education put a curriculum guide together. Then Turkish groups, which dispute that any genocide occurred, asked that their perspective be included. The Commissioner modified the guide. Then the Armenian groups got mad, and the Commissioner revised the materials again. The Turkish groups then sued, arguing that the political pressure put on the Commissioner removing their input violated the First Amendment. The First Circuit said no.
The panel found the suit barred by the statute of limitations (all this to-ing and fro-ing occurred in 1999), but spent most of its decision talking about standing, which it found inextricably linked with the merits. Basically, it found that when the curriculum is being framed by someone high up the administrative food chain, like a commissioner, then there's no First Amendment claim based on the political pressures put upon him.
In deciding the case, the Court distinguished Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982). [http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/US/457/457.US.853.80-2043.html] There, a local school board ordered the school superintendent to take certain books out of the high school and junior high school libraries, and the plurality of the court found a First Amendment violation. Justice Souter essentially said who knows what weight Pico has these days given the fragmented nature of the decision, and declined to extend its holding to a curriculum guide prepared by a commissioner.