Christine Tamashiro argued , Darolyn H. Lendio, and Ryan M. Oyama's application to become a student teacher, a prerequisite for recommendation to the State of Hawaii's teacher certification board.
This appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University implicates the constitutional balance between two prerogatives of a public university's professional certification program: We must delineate the scope of the University's authority to deny a teaching candidate's student teaching application on the basis of the candidate's speech. We conclude that the University did not violate Oyama's First Amendment rights because its decision related directly to defined and established professional standards, was narrowly tailored to serve the University's core mission of evaluating Oyama's suitability for teaching, and reflected reasonable professional judgment.
In addition, because the University provided adequate procedural protections in denying Oyama's application, neither it nor its agents violated Oyama's procedural due process rights.
We therefore affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University. Mark Oyama earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology, followed by a Master's Degree in physics from the University of Hawaii. He then enrolled in the University of Hawaii's post-baccalaureate secondary education certification program at Manoa. The University of Hawaii at Manoa is Hawaii's only nationally accredited institution that recommends students for certification as secondary school teachers.
The Program's requirements include coursework and one semester of student teaching. Admission to the Program does not guarantee admission to student teaching. Rather, students must submit a Student Teaching Application and must meet all student teaching requirements set forth in the Program's handbook. First, the University must comply with the Hawaii Department of Education's policies and regulations. Pursuant to Department of Education Policy No.
HTSB standards require teachers to, among other things, protect student safety, create an inclusive learning environment for all students, and demonstrate professionalism. Oyama began his coursework and completed a field experience practicum at a local middle school. During this period, several faculty members separately contacted Program administrators to express their concerns about Oyama's suitability for the teaching profession.
Oyama's statements concerning sexual relationships between adults and children were of central concern to the faculty. Personally, I think that online child predation should be legal, and find it ridiculous that one could be arrested for comments they make on the Internet. I even think that real life child predation should be legal, provided that the child is consentual [sic]. Basically from my point of view, the age of consent should be either 0, or whatever age a child is when puberty begins.
Ratliffe contacted the Director of the Secondary Program, Dr. Siegel, Oyama's professor, informed Dr. Oyama's supervising instructor, Dr. In a letter dated July 8, , Dr. Moniz informed Oyama his application had been denied. Oyama's Administrative Appeal Oyama first responded to Dr. Moniz's denial letter in a July 18, letter to Dr. Dean Sorensen reviewed the decision and convened a three-person committee, including officials from within and outside the College of Education, to investigate and review Oyama's academic grievance complaint.
The committee interviewed Oyama and three professors of Oyama's choice. On November 17, , the grievance committee issued its report and findings to Dean Sorensen for her consideration. In a letter dated December 15, , Dean Sorensen informed Oyama of her final decision. Dean Sorensen accordingly proposed reimbursing Oyama for certain expenses and allowing him to withdraw from certain courses, on the condition that Oyama release all claims related to his participation in the program.
District Court Proceedings Oyama rejected that offer. Instead, he filed a complaint against the University of Hawaii and university officials alleging violations of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
First Amendment Claim Oyama argues that the University's decision to deny his student teaching application violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Oyama equivocates, however, on the question of which First Amendment doctrine applies to his claim. Board of Education, U.
We understand the hybrid nature of Oyama's First Amendment claim. On the one hand, Oyama was a student in an academic setting. On the other hand, Oyama was a candidate for a certification that would allow him to work as a public school teacher. Oyama's claim defies easy categorization because his position at the University combined the characteristics of both a student and a public employee. In light of the mixed characteristics of Oyama's claim, we address the applicability of both student speech and public employee speech doctrines.
While both doctrines illuminate certain principles that guide our analysis, we conclude that neither, standing alone, provides an adequate framework for evaluating Oyama's claim.
Drawing from both student speech and public employee speech doctrines and from the few decisions of other courts that have confronted free speech claims in the certification context, we conclude that the University did not violate Oyama's First Amendment rights because its decision related directly to defined and established professional standards, was narrowly tailored to serve the University's core mission of evaluating Oyama's suitability for teaching, and reflected reasonable professional judgment.
Student Speech Doctrine Because Oyama was a student when the University denied his student teaching application, we begin by examining the Supreme Court's student speech jurisprudence. Tinker involved a group of students who wore black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War. Since Tinker, however, the Court has identified several circumstances in which a high school may restrict its students' speech.
All of these cases involved the speech of high school students at school or school-sanctioned events. The district court evaluated Oyama's claim within the student speech framework and rejected it under Hazelwood, finding that the University's action was reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns. Student speech doctrine does identify certain principles that inform our analysis here.
First, the Court's student speech precedents recognize, to some extent, an institutional rationale for a school's decision to regulate its students' speech. In this case, the University similarly bears an institutional responsibility: With the University's recommendation, a candidate is eligible to apply for a state teaching license and, so long as he or she satisfies other minimal requirements, to enter the classroom.
While aspects of student speech doctrine are relevant here, the Supreme Court has yet to extend this doctrine to the public university setting. In the twenty-seven years since Hazelwood, we too have declined to apply its deferential standard in the university setting. But Judge Graber's approach failed to command a majority of the Brown panel.
Nor has Judge Graber's reasoning been adopted by our precedents since. Neither of these rationales is relevant here. Concerns about student maturity cannot justify restrictions on speech in this context because certification candidates are adults; indeed, a prerequisite for enrollment in the Program is graduation from a four-year institution of higher education.
The University's purpose was not to teach Oyama any lesson; rather, it was to fulfill the University's own mandate of limiting certification recommendations to students who meet the standards for the teaching profession. Therefore, student speech doctrine does not adequately address the governmental purposes at stake in this context. Furthermore, student speech doctrine fails to account for the vital importance of academic freedom at public colleges and universities. New Hampshire, U.
The importance of academic freedom at a public university does not disappear when one walks down the hall from a political philosophy seminar to a professional certification program like the University of Hawaii's. The Court's student speech cases provide no basis for doing so. Public Employee Speech Doctrine Oyama alternatively suggests that the University's denial of his student teaching application was analogous to an employer's act of retaliation, which is governed by Pickering and its progeny.
More explicitly than student speech doctrine, public employee speech doctrine clarifies the University's rationale for regulating Oyama's speech: As the public employee speech cases recognize, the University may constitutionally evaluate or restrict the candidate's speech to fulfill its responsibilities to the public and to achieve its institutional objectives.
Further, cases addressing the claims of public teachers provide a wealth of wisdom about the standards to which teachers and school officials are held.
For example, in Melzer v. Board of Education, F. When his membership became public, many parents and students were outraged.
Similarly, in Craig v. The similarities between the circumstances at issue in these cases and those presented here make public employee speech doctrine an attractive means of analysis for Oyama's First Amendment claim. However useful public employee speech doctrine may appear, however, it cannot control our analysis of Oyama's First Amendment claim. The first and most basic problem is that Oyama was not a government employee.
In fact, Oyama was two steps removed from government employment: Even then, only if Oyama satisfactorily performed as a student teacher, and met other requirements, would the University recommend him for certification and actual employment by the state. Characterizing Oyama as a public employee for First Amendment purposes would thus require us to extend this doctrine to those who do not yet work for the government but may wish to do so—a move we have not yet made.
See Johnson, F. The second problem, as with student speech doctrine, is that public employee speech doctrine provides no basis for considering the role of academic freedom at public universities. As a student at the University of Hawaii, Oyama enjoyed greater freedom to test his ideas, critique professional conventions, and develop into a more mature professional than he would as a government employee.
To hold Oyama to the same standard as we hold public employees would deprive him of rights the First Amendment guarantees him as a public university student.
The Certification Cases A third framework for analysis more aptly suits Oyama's claim: The Certification Cases, 11 First Amend. The doctrinal bases for these decisions differ: Though these cases are analyzed under different First Amendment doctrines, their substance echoes a common theme—the upshot is some deference to the certifying institution, but with significant limitations.
Courts generally defer to certification decisions based on defined professional standards. Similarly, in Hennessy v. City of Melrose, F. By contrast, courts are more reluctant to defer to certification decisions based on officials' personal disagreement with a student's views. Application Drawing from the Supreme Court's student speech and public employee speech precedents and from the decisions of other courts in the certification context, we hold that the University of Hawaii's decision to deny Oyama's student teaching application did not offend the First Amendment because it related directly to defined and established professional standards, was narrowly tailored to serve the University's foundational mission of evaluating Oyama's suitability for teaching, and reflected reasonable professional judgment.
Two sets of professional standards provided the foundation for the University's decision: These standards are established not only in Hawaii but also at a national level.
According to one study, the sexual-assault laws of over half the states address sexual relationships between educators and students.
Many states also require school teachers to report suspected sexual abuse of their students.