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Mar 20 2014

School district hauled over the coals for bullying Buddhist student

You may have heard of the Christian school teacher in Louisiana who ridiculed a student in her class who happened to be Buddhist. She seems to be a real piece of work and what was worse, was backed up by school and district authorities.

The student, known as C.C., was asked by sixth-grade teacher Rita Roark to answer the following question on a test: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” When C.C. failed to respond “Lord,” Roark responded “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God.” She also frequently denigrated his Buddhist faith, as well as the Hindu faith, referring to both as “stupid.”

When his parents complained to Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb, they were told that “this is the Bible belt,” so they should expect to find the Christian God in the classroom. Ebarb advised them that if they wanted an ungodly classroom, they should transfer C.C. to a school where “there are more Asians.”

The ACLU took the parents’ case to court and U.S. District Court judge Elizabeth Foote ruled in favor of the family and issued a stinging verdict against the school in which she spelled out clearly what public schools can and cannot do with respect to religion, saying:

  • School Officials are permanently enjoined from promoting, advancing, endorsing, participating in, or causing Prayers during or in conjunction with School Events for any school within the School District.

  • School Officials are permanently enjoined from planning, organizing, financing, promoting, or otherwise sponsoring in whole or in part a Religious Service.
  • The District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event.

She went further and spelled out in great detail what each of those injunctions involves, like a stern parent explaining to her somewhat obtuse child what the rules are. She also took steps to ensure that no one could plead ignorance of her ruling, saying that her order had to be disseminated to everyone and that all employees, with the exception of bus drivers, had to undergo training on the requirements of the First Amendment and on “the psychological and developmental impact of religious discrimination on students”, and (this must really sting) must consult with the ACLU on the nature of the training programs.

She said that after 10 years, the district can come back to see if the order needs to be renewed.

I have rarely seen a judge issue such a stern lecture. Of course, the Buddhist family are going to be vilified by religious nuts in the local community who will feel that they have the right to trample on other people’s rights and they should just take it.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    moarscienceplz

    Sweeeeeet! First Fred Phelps dies and now this! Maybe it really is springtime in America!

  2. 2
    David Marjanović

    Wow. Thirty-two exclamation marks.

  3. 3
    tubi

    Of course, the Buddhist family are going to be vilified by religious nuts in the local community…

    This is a legitimate concern, given what we’ve seen in the past in Rhode Island, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc, etc.

  4. 4
    keithb

    moarscienceplz:
    This is not an indicator of springtime. There is no way this would have turned out any other way in the federal courts.

  5. 5
    RJC

    The school district sure burned some money.

  6. 6
    Timothy

    “She also took steps to ensure that no one could plead ignorance of her ruling, saying that her order had to be disseminated to everyone and that all employees, with the exception of bus drivers, had to undergo training on the requirements of the First Amendment and on “the psychological and developmental impact of religious discrimination on students”, and (this must really sting) must consult with the ACLU on the nature of the training programs.”

    Most excellent! First Amendment training. Love it!

  7. 7
    astrosmashley

    @keithb.

    It was the additional court-mandated ‘training’ sessions to be administered by the ACLU that is the win here. The judge in her decision and action moved the case ‘beyond the courts and into the field’ as ’twere… THAT’S what’s extraordinary about this case. Of course the ruling itself was predictable. But without the extra shaming and subsequent schooling to be administered by the ACLU we’d see these abuses continue. This message also says “we’re watching you, don’t even think of doing this again”!… So my hope is that it will somewhat reduce the antagonism to the family that brought suit. Also I imagine it will give courage to the many teachers and school officials who were undoubtedly on the family’s side of this.

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