Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Principals Liable for Stifling Christian Students

A federal appeals court refused Thursday to dismiss two Dallas-area elementary school principals from a lawsuit filed after students were told to stop distributing Christian candy cane pens and other religious expressions on campus.

-- From "Principals not dismissed from candy canes lawsuit" by Linda Stewart Ball, Associated Press Writer 7/1/10

Plano school principals Lynn Swanson and Jackie Bomchill had claimed qualified immunity. They also argued the First Amendment's freedom of speech protection does not extend to the distribution of non-curricular materials in public elementary schools.

"They are wrong," the appellate judges [of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans] wrote.

"This should send a strong message to school officials all over the country that if you engage in these kinds of violations against children that you're going to be held liable," said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute, which represents the families. "Not just the school district will be on the hook."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Appeals court rules against Plano principals in candy cane case" by Matthew Haag, The Dallas Morning News 7/2/10

Two Plano school principals violated students' constitutional rights if they confiscated Christian-themed materials, including candy cane pens, that students planned to hand out at school, an appeals court has said.

The principals "had fair warning that the suppression of student-to-student distribution of literature on the basis of religious viewpoint is unlawful under the First Amendment," three judges concluded in a sometimes strongly worded decision.

The ruling is the latest round in a complex, years-long legal battle sparked after the two Plano ISD principals confiscated students' pencils, pens and other gifts at school parties beginning in 2001.

The pencils one girl tried to distribute read, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," and the candy cane pens a student tried to pass out in December 2003 had cards attached to them that explained the Christian origin of the candies.

The case focused on several winter break parties from 2001 to 2004 at Thomas Elementary and Rasor Elementary. Lynn Swanson, the principal at Thomas, stopped a third-grade boy from distributing the candy cane pens with the Christian message that read, in part, "The blood Christ shed for the sins of the world."

A month later, Jackie Bomchill at Rasor prevented a girl from handing out tickets for a Christian drama and from distributing religious-themed pencils. The boy's parents and others whose children were prevented from handing out the materials sued the school district.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.