Thursday, December 5, 2013

Student Forced to Sue Over 'See You at the Pole'

by Bethany Monk, CitizenLink: Earlier this school year, a seventh-grade student in Kansas posted fliers at her school in honor of the upcoming “See You at the Pole” event, held in late September. The nationwide day is a time for students to gather around the flagpole at their school — in the morning before school starts — to pray.

The fliers the student posted at Robert E. Clark Middle School, in Bonner Springs, had some Bible verses on them. They were a precursor to additional fliers providing the official details of the event. After a school counselor told the student the fliers with verses were “illegal,” school officials took down the fliers and destroyed them.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed then suit against Unified School District No. 204 on behalf of the student. According to court documents, the district violated her constitutional rights.

“The law on this is extremely clear,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “School policies cannot target religious speech for exclusion. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

Even so, a district policy bans the distribution of “religious materials…on school grounds or in any attendance facility before, during, or after the school day or a school activity.”

Yet, the middle school has allowed students to post a variety of other materials, including a poster of rap artist Lil’ Wayne with the words “Good Kush and Alcohol.” Kush is a slang word for marijuana.

ADF’s lawsuit underscores the rights of students to express their faith:

“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Non-disruptive, private student expression is protected by the First Amendment… the government may not discriminate against speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum.”

Allowing such expression can benefit the academic setting.

“Marginalizing students of faith removes an important influence for good from the school community,” Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco explained. “We hope the school district will revise its policy so that students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the complaint in K.R. v. Unified School District No. 204.

Tags: CitizenLink, Robert E. Clark Middle School, Bonner Springs, Kansas, See You at the Pole, First Amendment, Alliance Defending Freedom, ADF To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the Greater Fitchburg For Life. Thanks!

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