Students in Florida and North Carolina are trying to get the federal government to provide them with free textbooks in their classrooms.
On Friday, a federal judge in Richmond, Virginia, rejected those efforts.
The issue is now before the Supreme Court.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Thomas R. Sullivan, said in a brief that the case, United States v.
The Booksellers, “is not about the rights of a single publisher or bookseller.”
He said the suit is an attempt to “establish a legal framework for protecting our democracy from a host of threats and abuse.”
The plaintiffs, many of whom are students at historically black colleges and universities, have argued that the federal program subsidizes the cost of printing textbooks.
The case is not a direct challenge to the books themselves, but to the federal role in their production.
In addition to providing funds for printing materials, the government provides funding for a range of education initiatives, including funding for teachers to teach students about the history of the civil rights movement.
The suit, filed by the National Education Association, is the latest in a series of such challenges to the free-speech protections of the First Amendment.
The groups are asking the Supreme Courts to overturn the 2015 ruling by a panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the First and 14th Amendments protect the free speech rights of students to read, study, and debate.
“The Court should not accept this litigation as an opportunity to allow the government to rewrite the history books and allow students to be indoctrinated into the belief that students are ‘privileged’ to engage in speech,” the groups said in their brief.
Court of Appeal for the 10 Circuit issued a ruling in April that the government could regulate the sale of textbooks, arguing that the Constitution “does not require the government or any third party to establish a monopoly on a particular form of speech.”