When a middle school student in Kansas wrote about a prayer event, what followed wasn’t expected. According to a federal lawsuit, a posting by a student that promoted a “See You At the Pole” event was removed due to “illegal” Bible verses on the posters. According to attorney Matt Sharp, school Officials at Robert E. Clark Middle School in Bonner Springs reportedly destroyed the fliers.
The incident happened in September when the student posted the flier to advertise a rally. The event was said to be a part of a national day of prayer. During the event the students would gather around the flagpole at the top of the morning to pray. The fliers that were confiscated and destroyed had Bible verses that referenced John 3:16 and Romans 5:8.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Sharp filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of the middle school girl. Her identity is only known in court documents as KR.
In the court documents Sharp stated:
“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. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”
Following the posting on September 20, the girl was confronted at a dance the school was holding by counselor Chellie Bonebrake. The lawsuit said that the girl was “forcefully” told the fliers were “illegal” due to the separation between church and state. The lawsuit alleges that the girl was “humiliated in front of her friends.”
Sharp has said that this policy is a direct violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, including the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.
Sharp said of the policy:
“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Non-disruptive, private student expression is protected by the First Amendment. Religious speech is fully protected by the First Amendment.”
According to superintendent Dan Brungardt for Bonner Springs/Edwardsville, he did not know about the lawsuit. He added that he did not receive complaints from anyone about the fliers that were posted about the prayer event. He also adds that the event was announced over the intercom, having said, “We can’t encourage students to go, but we did announce it.”
In the classroom there are numerous posters that are displayed, including a poster of the popular rapper Lil’ Wayne which contains the words “Good Kush and Alcohol.” That is practically a PG rated phrase when analyzing the rest of his lyrics, but it’s still considered inappropriate in a school setting.