A policy change in a Texas school district – which now will allow a third-grader to invite friends to a church event – has prompted officials to dismiss a lawsuit over the dispute.
Officials with the Alliance Defense Fund say the school district in Beaumont, Texas, changed its policy regarding communication between students so that it no longer discriminates based on the content.
The ADF then asked that the lawsuit, which had been filed against the Nederland Independent School District in April, be dismissed.
“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said Matt Sharp. He’s on the litigation staff of the ADF.
“We commend the school district’s decision to respect this third-grader’s constitutionally protected right to hand invitations to his fellow classmates during non-instructional time as other students have been allowed to do.”
The student was identified only by initials, but the complaint said N.M. was refused permission to give handwritten invitations to an AWANA event at a local church.
That was even though “The district has previously permitted students to distribute invitations during non-instruction time to off-campus events such as birthday parties.”
“Because plaintiff’s religious invitations fulfilled [written requirements], but were nonetheless denied by the district, it is apparent that the district has in place additional unwritten criteria governing student literature distribution that it relied upon to deny plaintiff’s request,” the complaint said.
The ADF sent a letter requesting an amicable resolution when the school refused permission for the third-grader to hand out the invitations, but the school instead demanded “to see copies of the representation agreement between plaintiff and his counsel and the Bar License numbers for plaintiffs’ counsel.”
However, after the legal claim alleging constitutional violations was filed in court, there was a change.
The ADF motion to dismiss noted that the district changed its position, and decided to allow the distribution of the invitations, and adjusted its policy to reflect the new standard.
The new rule states, “The district shall not discriminate based on the viewpoint, whether religious or nonreligious, expressed in private, student-to-student, non-disruptive speech.”
The school also “paid fees and costs to plaintiff’s attorneys” so no further request for any compensation was being submitted.
The ADF said the district also decided to train all administrators on the constitutionally protected rights of students to engage in religious express at school.”
AWANA, which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, is a popular program of lessons and activities used by many Christian churches.