TAMPA — Polices used by the Hillsborough County School Board to prevent a Lewis Elementary 4th grader from distributing Easter egg hunt invitations can no longer be applied, according to an order from a federal judge this week.
But as a part of a split decision, Judge James D. Whittemore also ruled that the child would not get an injunction against the school board allowing him to distribute invitations immediately.
The federal lawsuit filed in May by the child's mother, Kimberly Gilio, with backing from Christian organizations, claimed the child's First Amendment rights had been violated when he asked a substitute teacher if he could pass out invitations to an Easter Egg hunt and his request was denied by the principal. The invite advertised attendees could "learn the true meaning of Easter."
The principal sent the child's invitations back to him with a note that said, "We are not allowed to pass out fliers related to religious events or activities."
A U.S. Magistrate recommended earlier this month that the child's rights had been violated because his invitations did not cause a classroom disruption — which is a standard for restricting speech in schools —and the rules applied by the School Board unconstitutionally discriminate against the child's view point.
Neither side objected to the magistrate's recommendation. Whittemore explained in the ordered signed on Wednesday, "There is no evidence in this record that distribution of Easter egg hunt invitations during non-instructional time would have caused any interference with schoolwork or discipline at Lewis."