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U.S. Supreme Court

Perry Educ. Ass'n v. Perry Educators' Ass'n, 460 U.S. 37 (1983)

Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association

No. 81-896

Argued October 13, 1982

Decided February 23, 1983

460 U.S. 37


Under a collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Education of Perry Township, Ind., and Perry Education Association (PEA) as the exclusive bargaining representative for the School District's teachers, PEA was granted access to the interschool mail system and teacher mailboxes in the Perry Township schools. The bargaining agreement also provided that access rights to the mail facilities were not available to any rival union, such as Perry Local Educators' Association (PLEA). PLEA and two of its members filed suit in Federal District Court against PEA and individual members of the School Board, contending that PEA's preferential access to the internal mail system violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court entered summary judgment for the defendants, but the Court of Appeals reversed.


1. The appeal is not proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2), which grants this Court appellate jurisdiction over federal court of appeals' decisions holding a state statute repugnant to the Federal Constitution. Here, only certain provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, not the Indiana statute authorizing such agreements, were held to be constitutionally invalid, and the bargaining agreement cannot be considered to be in essence a legislative act. However, regarding the jurisdictional statement as a petition for a writ of certiorari, certiorari is granted because the constitutional issues presented are important and the decision below conflicts with the judgments of other federal and state courts. Pp. 460 U. S. 42-44.

2. The First Amendment is not violated by the preferential access to the interschool mail system granted to PEA. Pp. 460 U. S. 44-54.

(a) With respect to public property that is not, by tradition or government designation, a forum for public communication, a State may reserve the use of the property for its intended purposes, communicative or otherwise, as long as a regulation on speech is reasonable, and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speaker's view. The school mail facilities were not a "limited public forum" merely because the system had been opened for periodic use by chanrobles.com-red

Page 460 U. S. 38

civic and church organizations, or because PLEA was allowed to use the school mail facilities on an equal footing with PEA prior to PEA's certification as the teachers' exclusive bargaining representative. Pp. 460 U. S. 45-49.

(b) The differential access provided PEA and PLEA is reasonable, because it is wholly consistent with the School District's legitimate interest in preserving the property for the use to which it was lawfully dedicated. Use of school mail facilities enables PEA to perform effectively its statutory obligations as exclusive representative of all Perry Township teachers. Conversely, PLEA does not have any official responsibility in connection with the School District, and need not be entitled to the same rights of access to school mailboxes. The reasonableness of the limitations on PLEA's access to the school mail system is also supported by the substantial alternative channels that remain open for union-teacher communication to take place. Moreover, under Indiana law, PLEA is assured of equal access to all modes of communication while a representation election is in progress. Pp. 460 U. S. 50-54.

3. The differential access provided the rival unions does not constitute impermissible content discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Since the grant of exclusive access to PEA does not burden a fundamental right of PLEA, the School District's policy need only rationally further a legitimate state purpose. That purpose is clearly found in the special responsibilities of an exclusive bargaining representative. Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U. S. 92, and Carey v. Brown, 447 U. S. 455, distinguished. Pp. 460 U. S. 54-55.

Appeal dismissed and certiorari granted; 652 F.2d 1286, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J. and BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 460 U. S. 55.


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