Music

A piano teacher is suing a charter school for rejecting her application because of worries that many of the old masterpieces she uses in her teaching are religious.

“Amazing Grace.”

Christmas pieces. Think classics over the centuries such as “The Messiah.”

The gospel genre.

Some of the old composers, such as J.S. Bach, even dedicated their work “to the glory of God.”

The Pacific Justice Institute said it is suing Sky Mountain Charter School in Southern California over the school’s rejection of Dimitra Solomos, who essentially had been hired.

The case filed in Riverside Superior Court explains Solomos has been teaching piano to children for more than 25 years. In 2016, a teacher and families enrolled through Sky Mountain Charter School asked her to become an approved vendor of the school. She completed a background check, got a business license and complied with the other application requirements.

“Becoming a vendor would allow families to use extracurricular funds to pay for her piano lessons, which some families had been doing out-of-pocket because they felt she was an excellent teacher,” PJI said.

She was told initially that her application was approved.

But then school officials said they were prohibiting religious music.

Her curiosity prompted her to ask about “Amazing Grace,” spirituals and other religious music that fills piano method books.

“She was told she should tear out such songs or cover them over,” PJI said.

Even more problematic was Bach, whose music was signed to the glory of God.

Abruptly, the charter school reversed itself and rejected her.

“In a follow-up conversation with a director, she was told that her Christmas recitals and offering of instruction in classical, jazz, blues and gospel were problematic,” PJI said.

Now lawyers Michael Peffer and Matthew McReynolds are seeking damages and an order to restore her position.

“It is outrageous that this charter school would suggest tearing out old spirituals and ‘Amazing Grace,’ from piano books, and then deny this highly qualified teacher’s application for questioning such a directive,” said Brad Dacus, president of PJI.

“Cases and statutes have long recognized the vital role that religious music has played in the history of Western civilization. We are eager to vindicate our client’s rights to be treated equally and restore sanity to Sky Mountain Charter School.”

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