BEAUMONT, Texas — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of a third-grade Nederland student prohibited from distributing handwritten Bible club invitations to classmates during non-instructional time.
“All students should have the freedom to express their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Schools shouldn’t marginalize students who want to do good because of their faith. The school district can avoid needless litigation by simply respecting this third-grader’s constitutionally protected right to hand invitations to his fellow classmates during non-instructional time as other students have been allowed to do.”
The Hillcrest Elementary School student wanted to invite two friends to an AWANA (“Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed”) club meeting at a local church. The children’s program includes singing, crafts, games, hearing a Bible story, and other related activities. The student’s parents obtained permission from his teacher before distributing the invitations. The teacher granted permission on the condition that he invite the entire class since school policy requires all students to be invited so that no student feels excluded.
When the student attempted to distribute the invitations before class during non-instructional time, the same teacher told him he would not be allowed to distribute them. When the student’s father e-mailed the teacher to find out why she did not permit distribution of the invitations, the teacher replied that the principal was required to review the invitations first and that the principal was told by the district superintendent’s office not to allow the student to distribute the invitations. Other students are freely permitted to distribute invitations for events such as birthday parties.
The school district has a written policy that applies when a student distributes more than 10 copies of an invitation to an off-campus activity. The AWANA invitations met all conditions of the policy but were nonetheless prohibited by the superintendent. Ironically, the student’s invitations only became subject to the district policy because of the school policy that required him to invite his entire class instead of only two classmates, as he originally intended.
Houston attorney G. Scott Fiddler, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the case, N.M. v. Nederland Independent School District, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division.
- Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-ko)
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.