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October 16, 2018

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Foothill grad wants Supreme Court ruling on interrupted speech

A Foothill High School valedictorian whose graduation speech was cut off when she began talking about her Christian faith plans to take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, her attorneys said.

Brittany McComb, who is now attending Oxford University in England, filed a federal lawsuit against her former principal and vice principal, the school superintendent and the technician who turned off the microphone during her 2006 speech, claiming her First Amendment rights had been violated.

In a two-page memorandum issued on March 20, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim before it went to trial.

“Defendants did not violate McComb’s free speech and free exercise rights by preventing her from making a proselytizing graduation speech,” the court wrote.

However, a spokeswoman for the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit, conservative legal group that is representing McComb, said a petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case is being prepared and should be filed by summer.

“This is a very important free speech case that will affect the rights of all persons across America,” Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead said in a statement. “If government officials can extinguish speech by turning off microphones at public assemblies, then none of us have any rights.”

Joshua Reisman, the attorney for Clark County Schools Superintendent Walt Rulffes and the other defendants, said the Supreme Court receives many petitions and hears only a few, usually when two appeals courts disagree. He did not think this case would be granted a hearing.

“It has a remote chance,” Reisman said.

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