A middle school student is accusing a Kansas school district of restricting her First Amendment rights after she was reportedly forbidden from handing out or posting fliers to advertise the “See You at the Pole” prayer event at her school.
“See You at the Pole” is an annual initiative during which students assemble at their public school flag poles across the nation to offer up prayers, read scripture and acknowledge their faith.
The unnamed seventh-grade student is now fighting back, claiming that a counselor at Robert E. Clark Middle School in Bonner Springs, Kan., refused to allow her to hand out fliers, which contained Bible verses, advertising the Sept. 25 event.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, filed the lawsuit on the student’s behalf.
The group says the Bonner Springs/Edwardsville school district has an official policy of cracking down on the distribution of religion materials, while allowing other types of materials and messages to be shared, the Associated Press reported.
According to a press release from Alliance Defending Freedom, a counselor confronted the student at a school dance, telling her that the fliers were not legal because they contained Bible verses. School officials then allegedly “took down and destroyed the fliers” and, as a result, not many students ended up attending the event.
“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas. The law on this is extremely clear: school policies cannot target religious speech for exclusion,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp said in a statement. “The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”
Superintendent Dan Brungardt told the AP that the “See You at the Pole” event was announced over the loudspeaker and that, while the district cannot encourage children to go, the announcement did make pupils aware of the event.
In an email Brungardt also explained the policy that disallows the dissemination of religious materials, noting that there are many requests in this arena.
“If all entities who requested were allowed, it would be disruptive to the school environment,” the superintendent wrote.
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, while students are not allowed to post religious materials, other messages, including a poster featuring rap artist Lil’ Wayne and the words “Good Kush and Alcohol,” have been allowed.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., on Nov. 26.
(H/T: Associated Press)