What's at stake
- The freedom of students to share their religious beliefs at school without fear of censorship or punishment
- Students being told that they can't receive credit for community service performed at religious organizations and churches
Sarah Stites, a senior honor student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virginia, was required to perform at least 12 hours of community service to maintain her membership with the National Honor Society. To fulfill this requirement, Sarah volunteered in the "Kids Quest" program at her church. Each week, Sarah spent hours interacting with the students in the program, including playing games, singing songs, teaching lessons, working on crafts, and providing mentoring and guidance to children from different nationalities, children with behavioral problems, children with special needs, and children in abusive family situations. Although only required to perform 12 hours of service, Sarah dedicated over 46 hours to working with the children. But her school refused to award her any credit for her hard work and dedication, telling Sarah that her service does not qualify for any credit because she performed it at church. As a result, Sarah was left with insufficient service hours to remain in the Thomas Jefferson National Honor Society and was threatened with removal from the group.
With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Sarah challenged the School District and its policy that prohibited credit for "preparation or participation in the performance of religious services." Shortly after filing the lawsuit, the school district agreed to revise its policies and award Sarah full credit for her community service at Kids Quest.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Sarah in the defense of her rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.