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Parents of 7-year-old Laura Greska have taken legal action against their daughter’s school after Laura’s teacher refused to allow her to read a religious book about Christmas in her classroom.
After months of negotiations with Northwest Elementary School failed, the American Center for Law and Justice, an international public-interest law firm, filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Leominster Public School District in Massachusetts. ACLJ contends Northwest told the Greskas their daughter could not share her Christmas book in class because it contained the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, thus making it religious.
“This is a troubling example of a school district that is clearly exhibiting hostility toward religion and targeting its discrimination against a very young and impressionable elementary-school child,” Vincent McCarthy, the Greskas’ attorney and senior counsel of ACLJ, said in a statement. “The actions of the school district are not only unconstitutional, but send a disturbing message to all elementary school students – that religious beliefs must be treated the same way the school handles profanity or offensive behavior – not permitted at school.”
Last December, Laura brought a book entitled “The First Christmas” to school in response to a class assignment. The second graders were told to bring a book to class that represented their Christmas traditions. According to McCarthy, Laura was the only student to bring in a religious-based book and was told she could not share her book with the class.
“We want the school to comply with Laura’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment and stop their religious discrimination in the classroom,” said McCarthy, adding that it “didn’t make sense” that other students were allowed to express their beliefs when it came to Christmas holiday traditions and Laura wasn’t permitted just because hers were “Christian.”
During the several months of interim between when Laura first brought the book to school and when a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, McCarthy says, ACLJ sent a demand letter to the school and also tried to reach an agreement through negotiations with school officials – both to no avail.
“The school has refused to recognize Laura’s rights,” he told WorldNetDaily.
When Robert and Jessie Greska conferred with the school superintendent, says McCarthy, she backed Laura’s teacher and remained firm that Laura had no right to express her Christian faith in class. Ninety-five percent of ACLJ’s cases similar to the Greskas’ case are settled after a demand letter is sent, he says.
“This case is really the exception to the rule,” said McCarthy, who believes the case will still be settled out-of-court sometime in the future.
The attorney representing the school, Regina Tate, was out of town and could not be reached. Northwest school officials and the Greskas also were unavailable for comment by press time.
ACLJ wants the court to address the “discriminatory” treatment it believes Laura has received from her elementary school and asks the court to declare the school district’s action as unconstitutional and invalid.
“We’re moving on this issue now to ensure that our client does not continue to be discriminated against when she returns to class this fall,” stated McCarthy.