Saturday, March 16, 2013

School District Moves Jesus Portrait To Another School, Presumably Strengthening Their Defense

As previously reported, last month parents and a student who attends Jackson, Ohio Middle School filed a federal court lawsuit against the school district seeking removal of a portrait of Jesus that has been displayed for 65 years on an entrance wall in the school. Shortly after the suit was filed, the school board voted unanimously to keep the portrait up, saying that it is protecting student free speech rights.  It claimed that the portrait belongs to, and was put up, but the Hi-Y club whose name is on the portrait frame. The board said the portrait is part of a "limited public forum" in which other student organizations can also hang portraits related to their purposes in the schools.(AP, 2/15/13).

The Columbus Dispatch reports today on a new development that presumably is intended to strengthen the school's case.  This week, at the request of the Hi-Y Club, the portrait was moved from the middle school building to a high school building.  The Hi-Y is a high school club, and when the portrait was put up in 1947, the middle-school building housed the high school. When the high school moved to a new building, the portrait was never moved. Now the Hi-Y students say they want the portrait in the building where the club currently meets and where its members are students. School Superintendent Phil Howard said: "We have to respect the rights of the club. Failure to do so might ... turn... the portrait into government speech."

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