A parent attended an in-class winter party with his third-grade son. As part of the student gift exchange, the student intended to distribute candy canes bearing a religious message. The principal told the student and his father that religious material would not be permitted in the classroom and suggested that they place the candy canes on an “information table” where other families could pick them up and take them home.

The parents filed a lawsuit, alleging a violation of the student’s First Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the principal violated the student’s rights because she unconstitutionally discriminated against him on the basis of viewpoint when she did not allow him to distribute his gifts. However, the principal was entitled to immunity and the lawsuit against her was dismissed because the court found that the law was too complicated for the principal to have known how to handle the situation as it was developing.

The parents then alleged that the father also experienced viewpoint discrimination when the principal told him not to distribute the religious material to other adults in the classroom. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed that lawsuit as well, finding that the parent did not have a clearly established constitutional right to distribute religious gifts in the classroom.