BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. — A middle school student is fighting back after she was banned from posting flyers promoting “See You at the Pole,” a prayer event that’s held every year at public schools across the nation.
According to court documents, a school counselor ‘forcefully’ told the student, identified only as K.R., her flyers were “illegal,” citing separation of church and state. Court documents state the counselor confronted K.R. after school hours during a school dance in front of her friends. The flyers were subsequently taken down and destroyed by school staff.
K.R., a seventh grader at Robert E. Clark Middle School, contacted the Alliance Defending Freedom and filed a lawsuit. Attorney Matthew Sharp with Alliance Defending Freedom said the school violated K.R.’s first amendment constitutional right of free speech.
“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate,” Sharp stated in the lawsuit. “Non-disruptive, private student expression is protected by the First Amendment. … The government may not discriminate against speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum.”
The lawsuit states other students were permitted to post flyers containing other material. The lawsuit cited one student flyer of a tombstone that read “RIP” and “Here Lies K-STATE … I AM GLAD YOU ARE GONE FOREVER BECAUSE YOU TRY TO BE GOOD AS KU BUT YOUR ARE NOT.” Another example included flyers promoting rap artist Lil’ Wayne with the words “Good Kush and Alcohol.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the Clark Middle School newspaper “The Panther Press” sent home an issue in November with a ‘glowing’ review of “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” an M-rated video game that is “replete with graphic violence, profanity, drug use and nudity.”
K.R.’s posters were handmade with colored markers. One read, “For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16”
A second flyer read, “But God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8”
A parent, who wished to remain anonymous, emailed FOX 4 and said Clark Middle School Superintendent Daniel J. Brungardt sent out an email that stated the school has been contacted by several national media outlets regarding the federal lawsuit. The email stated in part:
“Although the District Office has not received formal notification of the suit, I understand that the suit pertains to an alleged violation of a student’s religious freedom or rights. Unfortunately, nobody approached middle school administrative staff or District administrative staff regarding their concerns.”
The email went on to state that student/policy concerns are usually resolved at the building level and “it is unfortunate that the first time this particular concern has been brought forth is in federal court.”
Brungardt went on to say, “The information that is out and circling the internet is one-sided, and because building and district administration were never contacted by anyone about this issue when it allegedly occurred, information is very limited at this time. The District will respond to the lawsuit as appropriate, but due to privacy concerns for the student involved, will not engage in a discussion of the details of the situation in the media or the general public. … Generally speaking, students have the right to express their religious beliefs in assignments if germane to the assignment. Teachers cannot require students to modify, include or excise religious views in their assignments, and must judge assignments by academic achievement.”
FOX 4’s Melissa Stern is following this story and will have more information throughout the day. Refresh this page for updates.