August 1, 2019 (Los Angeles) – A Huntington Beach, California, school district that had barred students from handing out Bring Your Bible to School Day flyers has revised its policies to expressly authorize religious expression by students during non-instructional time.
On Tuesday night, in a 4-0 vote, the Huntington Beach City School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved revisions to the existing freedom of speech policy explicitly permitting students to engage in religious expression without fear of reprisal. The revised policy was part of a settlement reached following a lawsuit alleging that the principal of John R. Peterson Elementary School violated the First Amendment rights of two students who sought to hand out flyers to other students promoting “Bring Your Bible to School Day” during lunch and recess.
In addition to the policy changes, the school district also agreed to pay Freedom X, the students’ attorneys, $15,000.
Freedom X filed the lawsuit – M.B. and N.B. v. Huntington Berach City Sch. Dist., et al. (8:19-cv-00027) – in January in the United States District Court in Orange County, CA, alleging constitutional rights violations on behalf of 10-year-old 4th grader Micah Bausch and his brother, 8-year-old second grader Nieko Bausch. The Complaint alleged that the school’s principal, Constance Pohhemus, violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and the free exercise of their religion by refusing to allow them to distribute the promotional flyers at any time during the school day, including lunch and recess, due to their religious content.
“Too often parents fail to act when their children’s’ schools push an anti-religious agenda,” said Freedom X president and chief counsel, Bill Becker. “This case demonstrates how a single parent can win back religious freedom in our public schools by taking action.”
The revised district policy explicitly permits students to engage in the free exercise of religious expression, including the distribution of religious flyers, and explicitly states that “Private religious expression is as fully protected … as secular expression.”
For several years, Focus on the Family has sponsored itsnationwide Bring Your Bible to School Day event designed to empower students to celebrate religious freedom—and share God’s hope with their friends—by taking a simple action: bringing their Bible to school.
Under well-settled constitutional law, the First Amendment applies to all student expression, including literature distribution during non-instructional time, regardless of religious content. School officials may not prohibit this expression out of fear that allowing religious speech will offend others.
IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR CHILDREN ARE BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST ON THE BASIS OF THEIR CHRISTIAN, JEWISH OR CONSERVATIVE EXPRESSION, CONTACT FREEDOM X.