- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) — The Supreme Court Monday refused to review a dispute at Colorado's Columbine High School, scene of a mass student shooting in April 1999.

At issue in the case was whether the school district could ban religious subjects from hand-painted commemorative tiles installed in the school's classrooms.

Two disaffected students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and a teacher during a shooting spree at the school and wounded a score of others before killing themselves.

As part of the healing process, high school officials invited students and members of the public to participate in an art project to "reclaim" their school from violence.

Students and families were invited to hand paint 4x4-inch tiles that were to be affixed to the walls of the school's hallways.

The only restrictions on subject matter for the paintings were that it not be of a religious nature or make any reference to the shootings, and they could not be obscene.

A group of those invited to paint tiles objected to the restrictions, especially the prohibition on religious subject matter.

In fact, according to the group's petition at the Supreme Court, many of the completed tiles were never placed in the hallways because they contained religious or other restricted expressions. Some tiles containing religious symbols, such as small crosses, were even chiseled from the walls after they had been affixed.

The group of objectors filed suit in federal court, contending that their freedom of expression had been violated by school officials. At that point, a federal judge ruled that the restrictions were unconstitutional.

However, a federal appeals court panel reversed. The appeals court said school officials do not have "unbridled discretion over school-sponsored speech," but said they had legitimate education concerns that were served by the restrictions.

If school officials had created a completely free forum — one in which a student would have been allowed to write "God is love" on a tile — officials would have been compelled to allow a tile that said "God is hate," the panel said.

The challengers then asked the Supreme Court to review the case.

The justices rejected the case Monday in a one-line order without comment or dissent.

(No. 02-732, Fleming et al vs. Jefferson County School District.)

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