The following contains editorial content within which is the opinion of the writer.
DES MOINES, WA- Want to witness for and tout Black Lives Matter on school grounds? How about preach the “bible” of the deviate sexual community? Can I hear a “hallelujah?”
Witness for Jesus? Absolutely not!
Such is the case of a school in Des Moines, Washington, which has caught the attention of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
In the above case, a young second grade girl was forced to tears by her school, bullied by school administrators for the “sin” of sharing the Gospel on the playground, ACLJ tells us.
According to a press release from ACLJ, fighting for religious liberties of public school students is a priority for the group, having first fought for same since the beginning of the organization, when Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow argued and won Board of Education v. Mergens at the Supreme Court in 1990.
According to ACLJ, they were contacted by the parents of a second grade student, a little girl who had been sent to the principal’s office at North Hill Elementary School at least ten times since the beginning of January for the “crime” of witnessing to classmates on the playground.
The parents told ACLJ that the office trips were not the worst of it.
Every morning, administrators at the school were stopping the child at the school entrance to conduct an inspection of her backpack to make sure she didn’t have any Christian items within.
One such exchange was witnessed by the child’s mother one morning when she was dropping her daughter off at school.
Upon going and confronting the principal, mom was told that her child was not permitted to pass out tracts or crosses to students because it was allegedly upsetting parents, and the school was seeking to confirm there were no tracts in her daughter’s backpack every morning when she was dropped off going forward.
In other words, Christian tracts “were being treated as contraband, as if speaking about Jesus were an illicit drug,” ACLJ wrote.
This caused the parents to reach out to the ACLJ, which then wrote a letter to the school explaining the little old document called the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, which they told the school protected children’s religious rights in a public school setting. The ACLJ expected that once the school was placed on notice, they would back down.
Instead, the principal basically “doubled down” and said it was school policy that students are not permitted to distribute materials that “cause a disruption or interfere with school activities.”
The ACLJ then drew attention to the fact that the Highline School District, where this school is located, has a Freedom of Expression policy that only prohibits the distribution of written materials that cause a disruption of school activities in an assembly or classroom setting—not outside on the playground. [emphasis added]
The organization also noted that Supreme Court precedent has directed that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. [Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Community Sch. Dist. (1969)]
Under that ruling, students are free to express religious views while at school, which includes sharing Bibles, Christian tracts, and crosses, the ACLJ wrote.
The ruling in Tinker further stated that any “concern that a substantial disruption could occur as a result of permitting students to exercise their First Amendment rights is an insufficient reason to restrict student speech:
But, in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Any departure from absolute regimentation may cause trouble. Any variation from the majority’s opinion may inspire fear. Any word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the views of another person may start an argument or cause a disturbance. But our Constitution says we must take this risk…
The ACLJ slammed the actions of the school, referring to their conduct as “outrageous.”
“They will not get away with this. The ACLJ will ensure that this little girl’s religious liberties are respected once and for all,” said Christina Compagnone (Stierhoff). “We recently sent a Demand Letter to the school; and if the school does not take immediate corrective action, we are ready to file in court if necessary.”
Compagnone identified the school as North Hill Elementary School in Des Moines, Washington.
“We were astonished when we were first contacted by a second-grade student’s parents who said their little girl had been sent to the principal’s office in North Hill Elementary no less than ten times since January 1st for witness to classmates on the playground,” she said.
“But it only gets worse,” they said referring to the child being accosted at the school entrance every morning.
Compagnone noted that is not, nor ever has been a “requirement for students to ask permission when talking with other students,” noting that this particular policy specifically “discriminates against this second-grade student if she is the only one required to ask permission to discuss anything at all, much less her faith.”
“She was trying to save her classmates, a noble task that shows love as opposed to the common grade-school bullying,” Compagnone wrote. “Nonetheless, because of her religious beliefs, the faculty has decided to single her out for disparate treatment.”
Compagnone said the ACJL will protect not only this student but all students.
“The ACLJ will always protect our school children regardless of the political climate of the public school system.”
Are your children being harassed for expressing their religious beliefs? Contact the ACLJ for help.