Friday, January 11, 2013

High School Teacher Sues Over Directive To Remove Religious Materials From Classroom

A Cheektowaga, New York high school science teacher has filed a federal court lawsuit against her school district complaining that she was required to remove all personal non-curricular items of a religious nature from her classroom and refrain from promoting religion in her communications with students. The complaint (full text) in Silver v. Cheektowaga Central School District, (WD NY, filed 1/10/2013), asserts that plaintiff Joelle Silver is a devout Christian, and that the school district policy allows teachers to display personal messages, including inspirational messages, in their classrooms and offices-- such as those by the school's social worker promoting gay rights. School officials sent Silver a "counseling letter" telling her to remove from her classroom her posters containing religious messages, a drawing depicting 3 crosses, sticky notes she placed on her desk displaying Biblical quotations, and the Bible Study Club's prayer request box.  The letter also complained that Silver, as monitor of the school's Bible Study Club, was going further and participating in its meetings and activities in violation of school policy.  Silver claims these actions violate the free expression, establishment clause and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. American Freedom Law Center announced the filing of the lawsuit. The Buffalo News reports that the school's actions came after it received two letters from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.