A Massachusetts schoolgirl now can bring her favorite Christmas book to school without fear of being reprimanded after a school district backed down from a policy that barred the student from sharing a book about the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Leominster Public School District agreed to change its policy after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Laura Greska, a student at Northwest Elementary School. The suit claimed the girl’s right to exercise her religious beliefs were violated when, after being asked to bring a book about a Christmas tradition to class, Greska brought one highlighting the nativity.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm specializing in religious-freedom issues, filed the suit on behalf of Greska and her parents.
“We’re pleased that the student will no longer be singled out and face discrimination for merely exercising her constitutional rights,” said Vincent McCarthy, senior counsel of ACLJ, in a statement. “This case is an important reminder that students do not shed their constitutional rights to express their religious faith when they enter the schoolhouse door. We are encouraged that the school district has agreed to do what it should have done from the beginning – protect the free speech rights of our client.”
According to the suit, Greska brought “The Story of Christmas” by Sally Owen to class to share, but was stopped by her teacher because of its religious content. The suit contended that while the school district permitted students to present books covering a wide variety of Christmas traditions, the teacher stopped Greska from reading her book when she got to a part deemed too religious. The suit claimed the parents were told religious books were not permitted.
In a settlement agreement, the district agreed that Greska, an 8-year-old third-grader, “will be permitted to exercise her religious beliefs via speech (whether oral or written), if appropriate to an assignment, in all future school assignments.”
ACLJ has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Said McCarthy: “The settlement agreement ensures that the constitutional rights of our client are protected and sends a very important message that religious speech must not be singled out and treated differently than other speech in school.”