Federal appeals court rules against Lakeville school district in free speech case

The decision outlined that the district's policy regarding Black Lives Matter posters constituted impermissible viewpoint discrimination.


In a significant legal decision, the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit against the Lakeville School District over their policy regarding Black Lives Matter posters.

“This is a huge victory for free speech and a serious blow to government efforts to pass off private activist speech as its own,” said James Dickey, Senior Counsel for the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC). 

The decision outlined that the district’s policy regarding Black Lives Matter posters constituted impermissible viewpoint discrimination.

UMLC represented local taxpayers and parents, Bob and Cynthia Cajune, Kalynn Kay Aaker, and her minor children, and hailed the decision as a victory for free speech. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2023, challenged the school district’s stance on allowing Black Lives Matter posters while rejecting alternative messages such as Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. The plaintiffs argued that this selective acceptance violated their First Amendment rights. Judge Jerry Blackwell ordered the dismissal of the initial lawsuit in August 2023.

The case, Cajune v. Independent School District 194, is now remanded back to the District Court of Minnesota. It’s expected to compel the Lakeville School District to either broaden its policy on posted messaging or return to a stance of viewpoint neutrality.

“The government cannot put its thumb on the scale in favor of Black Lives Matter activists against all other speech on issues of race in America,” Dickey said. “If Minnesota’s school districts are going to open up their hallways and classrooms to private speech, they must do so without discrimination, or not do it. We call upon the Lakeville School District to take the Court’s message and end its discriminatory policy.”

The controversy arose when the Lakeville School District argued that the display of Black Lives Matter posters constituted “government speech” and was therefore exempt from First Amendment scrutiny. 

The 8th Circuit disagreed, characterizing the posters as expressions of private activists to which the district “affix[ed] a government seal of approval.”

“The Court’s decision underscores the importance of maintaining viewpoint neutrality in public discourse,” Dickey added.

The implications of this decision may extend beyond Lakeville, potentially influencing similar policies in school districts nationwide.

The Upper Midwest Law Center is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to defending constitutional rights and principles through litigation and advocacy.


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.