A California school district is about to get a “hard lesson” in Constitutional law.
Although the Huntington Beach City School District insists it was only following policy, parents of two brothers have filed a lawsuit alleging it violated their students’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, Fox News reported.
A Los Angeles-based conservative Christian group, Freedom X, filed the federal lawsuit last week against the school district for allegedly prohibiting Micah, 10, and Nieka Bausch, 8, from distributing flyers promoting Bring Your Bible to School Day back in October.
“I’m curious why schools think religious speech can be censored,” Bill Becker, president of Freedom X and the family’s attorney said, according to the Daily Bulletin. “To discriminate based on religious content is a violation of the First Amendment.”
The brothers were reportedly told they could only hand out the flyers before and after school to promote the day, which is held on the first Thursday of October. Started by Focus on the Family, it is a day meant to encourage students to share their faith.
“We try to discourage flyers as much as possible,” District Superintendent Gregg Haulk told Fox News. “We have found they’re not an effective tool for communication.”
He also indicated that the District was “surprised” and “disappointed” by the lawsuit, disputing that the fourth and second graders at John R. Peterson Elementary School had their rights violated.
“It had nothing to do with the content,” Haulk said.
“Our procedure is that anything handed out needs to be approved. They were given every freedom of any individual to pass out flyers,” he added, as the boys were reportedly told that per school policy, the materials could only be handed out before and after school.
But the students’ mother contends that daycare before and after school prevented the boys from handing out the flyers at that time.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like kids get instruction during lunch and recess,” Holly Bausch told the Daily Bulletin. “Why is that considered instructional time?”
“Principle [Constance] Polhemus and the Huntington Beach City School District are about to learn a hard lesson in constitutional law,” Becker said. “Students, regardless of grade level, have a First Amendment right to express a religious viewpoint to another student, including the right to distribute religious flyers, without fear.”
The director of education issues and initiatives at Focus on the Family sees the incident as a vital one affecting religious freedom in public schools.
“Respectfully sharing information during a free period on campus is one of the primary, and often only, outlets that kids have for expressing their values and putting their free-speech rights into practice,” Candi Cushman, who oversees the Bring Your Bible to School program, told Fox News.
“Shut down that right,” she added, “and you’ve pretty much squelched kids’ ability to direct any kind of student-led event.”
Becker expressed his frustration with the California school system.
“They are trying to push the idea of multiculturalism that is inclusive of Islam, but they are always willing to be exclusive of Christianity,” he told the Daily Bulletin. “It’s an upside-down world we have today, a backlash against the time when all schools were required to teach the Bible.”
Becker alleged the school’s principal told the boys’ mother: “As a public school, we cannot approve the distribution of religious materials to students during school hours.”
Haulk contends that when Polhemus contacted him with concern over the flyers, he assured her “the content is appropriate.”
“Despite the initial confusion, we communicated effectively with the parents,” he added. “We’ve never had any issues with Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
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