Scappoose school district settles dance team free speech lawsuit

Scappoose school district settles dance team free speech lawsuit »Play Video

SCAPPOOSE, Ore. - Marissa Harper loves competition, especially competition with her high school dance team.

But this past year, when dance team leaders required members to sign a social media agreement  requiring posts to be screened and approved by the team, Marissa Harper refused.

Marissa’s mom Alicia Harper complained to school leaders.

When they didn’t do anything, the American Civil Liberties Union helped Alicia Harper file suit claiming the mandatory agreement limited her daughter’s right to free speech.

“It wasn’t easy, it definitely wasn’t easy," Harper said. "But the bigger picture was just making sure that what we felt we were doing was right and, you know, just seeing it through.”

Scappoose School Superintendent Stephen Jupe says he didn’t know about the required social media agreement at first.

“It came to my attention really as a real issue, later in the year when we got notification from the ACLU’s lawyers,” stated Jupe.

The district says the agreement was a well-intentioned but misguided attempt at cutting down derogatory social media posts about the dance team, especially bullying.

The district dropped the required agreement and settled the lawsuit.

That includes paying $25,000 to the ACLU for legal fees and issuing a statement.

“It basically says yeah, we made a mistake, and the mistake was unconstitutional,” Jupe said.

Alicia Harper said she’s satisfied with the settlement.

“I’m really pleased with it,” Harper said. “I think ultimately, my main goal was just getting the policy retracted. And they were able to do that.”

Alicia Harper also hopes her daughter Marissa, and her other daughter on the dance team, learned something beyond dance. Something they’ll both carry well beyond high school.

“The biggest thing that they’ve learned, that they’ve told me was that standing up for what’s right, even when you’re the only person standing up," Harper said. "And you know, I think that’s really important."