• Student suspended for preaching will get his day in court

    By: Henry Rosoff

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - A student suspended for preaching at his Everett school will get his day in court.

    Wednesday, Michael Leal’s attorneys will argue he should not have been punished for preaching freeform sermons and handing out religious pamphlets at Cascade High School in Everett.

    Since filing the lawsuit last November, Leal said he has been allowed to talk about faith to other students, but has been prevented from handing anything out.

    “That’s part of my work, and for them to stop me from handing out things that they say could offend people, I find that kind of unfair,” Leal said.

    “He could not even pass out copies of the constitution, if he wanted to,” said Brad Dacus, one of the Leal’s attorneys.  “That’s how rigid and restrictive this school’s policies are regarding speech.”

    Dacus said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than four decades ago that a student’s free speech rights do not stop at the school door.  However, in the past, Cascade’s principal told KIRO 7 that this situation is not about Leal’s rights -- it's about the rights of students at the school to get an undisrupted education.

    Fellow students have said Leal can be very aggressive when preaching.

    Leal refuted those claims on the eve of the federal hearing.

    “Whenever I hand out gospel tracts or share the message in any way, it’d be before school, after school, or during lunch.  (I) never interrupted classrooms at all.”

    No attorney from the school district commented Tuesday night.  Leal’s attorneys said the case could carry on for a while, and have a sweeping legal impact.  He plans to take it as high as the Supreme Court if necessary.

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