Backed by ADF, first-grade student now permitted to share Christmas song with classmates
WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. — Initially denied the right by school officials to share a Christmas song with his classmates during “show and tell,” a first-grade student has been permitted to participate after an Alliance Defense Fund attorney sent a letter on his behalf to Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Jean Brown.
“The First Amendment guarantees that the free speech rights of all students, including those who are Christian, are entitled to protection. Those rights do not end at the schoolhouse gate,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker. “Any person familiar with the Constitution would recognize that this student’s presentation could not be viewed as an endorsement of religion by the school. The school district’s decision to allow our client to participate in ‘show and tell’ ensures that his First Amendment rights will no longer be violated.”
Deven DeBow, a first-grader at Woodlake Avenue Elementary, planned to share a song with his class that he was practicing to perform as part of his church Christmas program. The song, “The First Leon,” is a children’s song about the shepherds in the Christmas story. DeBow also wanted to provide flyers about the upcoming performance to interested classmates. The event occurred last weekend.
Upon learning of DeBow’s plans, his teacher confiscated the flyers, saying he would not be able to sing the song because “not everyone believes in the God you do.” DeBow’s parents questioned the teacher, who said that allowing DeBow to proceed would constitute “government endorsement of religion.” Woodlake’s principal backed the teacher and told DeBow’s parents to take their complaint to district officials.
On Monday, in a different lawsuit filed by ADF attorneys, Turton v. Frenchtown Elementary School District Board of Education, a federal court ruled that a Christian song “selected and performed by an individual student…was the private speech of a student and not a message conveyed by the school itself.”
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.