A California district is accused of lashing out at a student for inviting a classmate to an event outside of school.
Infuriated school officials summoned the student to the principal’s office four times in one day to write out a “confession.” They then vowed to censor her invitations to friends in the future.
The non-school event was a free seminar offered by an organization called Genesis Apologetics, which offers scientifically grounded responses to teachings about evolution.
The student, identified as “Esther” by the Pacific Justice Institute, which is pursuing the case on her behalf, actually invited two of her friends to the event. The theme of evolution had come up regularly in a class, which uses a textbook titled “Early Civilizations.”
The conversation among many students in Esther’s class turned to an examination of creationist and biological evolutionary theories of origins, the law firm said in its complaint against Loomis Union School District in Loomis, California.
“Currently the class is discussing plate tectonics and the Big Bang theory,” the complaint continues. “[Esther] sought out more information to be able to express her beliefs and understanding on the issue to participate in the ongoing conversation.”
She learned of the three-session seminar, and after attending the first session invited one friend to the second. The two then invited a third friend to the final session.
The invitations were delivered during lunch breaks, and Esther provided a flyer so that the friends could check with their parents.
It apparently was a parent of one of the invited students who called school officials to complain that the invitation was made to an event outside of school.
School officials did not respond to a WND request for comment.
The lawsuit names Supt. Gordon Medd, School Director Erica Sloane, acting Director Katie Messerli and others as defendants. The complaint says Sloane erupted in anger and ordered the student to write a “confession,” declaring all such statements in the future will require the school’s stamp of approval.
According to the legal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sloane “proceeded to scold [the student] for bringing the … flyer to school because the content is religious and because it had not been approved by the school district.”
“Sloane told [the student] that she was not permitted to distribute the flyer to students … and her actions were unacceptable.”
Sloane also “expressed her anger, through an intimidating tone and expressions, at [the student] over the situation … and further directed [the student] to not talk about religion at school, even during lunch.”
In her second summons to the school office that day, the student was ordered to write an incident report to confess what she had done.
Fifteen minutes later, Sloane found the confession “inadequate,” so the student was summoned again. As Sloane was still unsatisfied, the student was summoned a fourth time.
But the Loomis Basin Charter School’s mission statement, the complaint points out, says its aim “is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, patriotic, honorable, responsible and caring young people who have the background, skills, knowledge and qualities necessary to participate successfully and actively in a changing and increasingly interrelated world.”
It also says students will need to “think independently and connect content to real life.”
The student “has been disturbed by these events and felt harassed, traumatized, and unsafe to the point that she did not want to return to school in the days that followed because of the scolding and harsh interactions.”
When her mother got involved, officials explained to her the student was not allowed to distribute any flyer to students, even friends, inside or outside of class.
The schools position, the complaint says, is that a pupil “cannot personally give printed material to another pupil without first obtaining a district disclaimer affixed to the literature.”
The complaint alleges a violation of state and federal constitutional free speech rights.
The student, it says, “has a speech right to possess on her person and distribute a flyer expressing a religious viewpoint.”
“The scolding and intimidation by Sloane as against [the student] to cease and desist from distributing said flyer, cease and desist from keeping a similar flyer on her person or in her backpack, and to just say no to anyone who may provide her with a flyer to share with her fellow classmates, or face additional administrative action are a form of censorship which is inconsistent with the rights guaranteed to [the student] as a citizen.”