Supreme Court roundup: Limits to student speech

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sit for their official photograph Oct. 8, 2010, at the Supreme Court in Washington. From left to right, front row: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. From left to right, back row: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and Associate Justice Elena Kagan.
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WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court has passed up a pair of cases for the online age — whether schools may censor students who are at home when they create online attacks against school officials and other students.

The justices on Tuesday rejected appeals from Pennsylvania and West Virginia involving difficult questions about the limits on criticism from students and where the authority of school officials ends.

In one case, an appeals court upheld the suspension of a West Virginia student who created a web page suggesting another student had a sexually transmitted disease and invited classmates to comment. In the other case, a different appeals court said two Pennsylvania students could not be disciplined at school for parodies of their principals that they created on home computers and posted online.

No block for ex-congressman's trial

The court won't hear a bid by former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi to block his trial on charges of extortion and other crimes.

The high court refused to hear an appeal by the Arizona Republican, accused of trying to engineer a land swap involving public and private land to benefit himself and a business partner. He has pleaded innocent.

Renzi argued that prosecution evidence concerning negotiations with private entities on proposed real estate deals, including a swap involving public land proposed as the site for a copper mine, was improperly presented to a grand jury, violating the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause.

But the lower courts have ruled against Renzi, and the high court now has refused to review those decisions.

Tipped Applebee's workers can sue for more wages

The court will allow bartenders and servers who make part of their money through tips to file lawsuits for more money when they do work that doesn't involve tips.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from Applebee's International, which wants to overturn a lower court ruling.

Restaurants consider tips as part of some employees' salary to get the pay up to the minimum wage. But if a worker spends 20 percent of the time doing general maintenance and preparation work, they currently get full minimum wage.

Gerald Fast and others sued, saying that opening and closing restaurants, as well as cleaning and stocking, consumed significant work time and Applebee's should pay them additional wages. The lower courts refused to dismiss the complaint and the high court agreed.

Panel's prayers violated First Amendment

The court rejected an appeal from a North Carolina county commission over the mostly Christian prayers offered at the beginning of its public meetings.

The justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that held that the predominantly Christian prayers at the start of Forsyth County commission meetings violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government endorsement of a particular religion.

The commission said its doors have long been open to religious leaders of many faiths. But the appeals court in Richmond, Va., found that more than three-quarters of the 33 invocations given before meetings between May 2007 and December 2008 referred to "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "Christ" or "Savior."