In January of this year, the parents of a third grade student at Hillcrest Elementary School in Nederland, Texas asked their child’s teacher for permission for the student to pass out invitations to an AWANAs meeting after school at the local Baptist church. The teacher agreed, but when the student showed up with invitations for only two other students, the teacher stopped him and told him that school policy said that he had to invite the entire class so that no one felt left out.
When the boy’s father contacted the teacher to find out what happened, the teacher told him that the invitation had to first be approved by the school principal and that when the principal asked the school district office, permission was denied. That rule only applied to more than ten invitations, but the teacher would not allow fewer than ten and the district said no to enough invitations for the entire class.
The Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of the student and his parents claiming that the student had a constitutional right to hand out the invitations. In the lawsuit, ADF requested that the school district change its policy so as not to discriminate against some students for doing the same thing others were allowed to do, namely handing out invitations to events like birthday parties.
Representing the ADF was legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco who said:
“All students should have the freedom to express their beliefs. Schools shouldn’t marginalize students who want to do good because of their faith. The school district can avoid needless litigation by simply respecting 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.”
As a result of the lawsuit, the school district has vowed to allow students to hand out invitations to non-school events like AWANAs. Additionally, the district agreed to do more than meet the requests of the lawsuit as ADF counsel Matt Sharp explains:
“Something that I think is really important is that they’ve also agreed to provide mandatory teacher training upon the rights of students to engage in religious expression at school for the upcoming school year. So we think this is an incredible win.”
“I think they’ve got a duty to not only protect their student’s right and their child’s right, but they have to realize that there may be other students in the same school, in the same district who have had the same situation occur, and so, they’re really standing up on behalf of a lot of students who experience this type of discrimination against their religious speech.”
Once the school district notified ADF of their policy decisions, the suit was dropped.
After what seems like an endless stream of defeats for Christians in the public schools, it’s about time we had a victory. All too often, Christian students have been stripped of their constitutional rights in favor of highly prejudicial minorities and God-hating evolutionists. Maybe some of our prayers are finally being answered and there still may be hope for America and our kids yet.