Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Court Dismisses Challenge To Book Used In High School Literature Curriculum

In Coble v. Lake Norman Charter School, (WD NC, Mrch 23, 2021), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed 1st Amendment challenges to a high school's use in its literature curriculum of the award-winning book The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Plaintiffs, parents of a high school student (JHC), claim that the book is hostile to religion and disparages Catholicism. Rejecting plaintiffs' Establishment Clause argument, the court said in part:

The problem with the Cobles’ claim is that, without any factual allegations of how LNC uses The Poet X in the classroom, the Court has no ability to determine whether that specific use conveys an endorsement or disapproval of religion. The content of the book itself is not sufficient to prove a violation of the second Lemon prong even if the book’s content is disparaging toward a particular faith....

Rejecting a free exercise challenge, the court said in part:

In the present case, the Cobles claim that the potential exposure of their son to The Poet X violates the Free Exercise Clause because it violates JHC’s religious beliefs. But this claim ignores the fact that JHC was not required to read The Poet X. Rather, LNC offered an alternative to the book.... LNC’s offer of an alternative text tends to establish that LNC has done nothing to burden JHC’s religious practices.