Tuesday, April 01, 2008

High Schooler Sues To Challenge Art Project Limits

In Madison, Wisconsin, a Tomah High School senior (identified as A.P.) last Friday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a school policy that prohibits art class projects from depicting "violence, blood, sexual connotations, [or] religious beliefs." In an art class assignment involving drawing of a landscape, A.P. included a cross and the words "John 3:16 A sign of peace." Teacher Julie Millin, asked him to remove the Bible reference because other students were making remarks about it. When A.P. refused, she gave him a zero on the project, showing him the class policy. A.P. responded by tearing up the policy statement in front of the teacher. She ejected him from class and he later received two detentions for tearing up the policy. In a later incident, A.P.'s metals arts teacher rejected his idea to build a chain-mail cross because it was religious.

The complaint in A.P. v. Tomah Area School District, (WD WI, filed 3/28/2008), alleges that the school policy and its enforcement against A.P. violates A.P.'s First and 14th Amendment rights. It says that other artwork with religious themes are displayed throughout the school and argues that "per se censorship of religious speech in assignments does not represent a legitimate pedagogical interest." A release yesterday by the Alliance Defense Fund contains links to copies of A.P.' drawing and to drawings of demonic images created by other students in the class. Yesterday's Racine (WI) Journal Times reports on the case