ACLU Wins Lawsuit Over Harassment Of Buddhist Student By School Officials

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A settlement has been reached between a western Louisiana school and the American Civil Liberties union in a lawsuit claiming a Buddhist six-grader was harassed at school for his religious beliefs. 

Negreet High School, in the Sabine Parish School District, was accused of harassing the student because he is Buddhist, and routinely having Christian beliefs pushed on the child by school officials.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the child’s parents, Scott and Sharon Lane, and their three children, has been won in the U.S. District Court in Shreveport, Louisiana.

One of the main things the lawsuit alleged was that a teacher at Nagreet High School “declared that Buddhism was stupid,” reports ABC News

School officials also allegedly suggested the student should transfer to another school with “more Asians,” reports the ACLU.

The school was also accused of “regularly incorporating Christian prayer into classes and school events and scrolled Bible verses on an electronic marquee in front of the school.”

The actions by the school were seen by the ACLU as violating the separation of church and state.

One of the defendants in the suit, science teacher Rita Roark, was accused of teaching students that “the earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, that evolution is ‘impossible,’ and that the Bible is ‘100 percent true.'”

A test Roark administered included a fill-in-the-blank entry referring to religion: “Isn’t it amazing what the ______ has made!!!!”

With the filing of the lawsuit came harassment to the Lane household.

Crank calls to their home and work were common.

Sharon was accosted while doing yard work:

“Three people wearing KKK-type white hoods drove by her and shouted, ‘You fucking nigger Asian-loving bitch.’”

The victory in the lawsuit means there are now prohibited practices on file, including that school officials won’t discourage or encourage religious activities; they won’t assign readings from religious texts, absent a non-religious educational purpose; and they won’t express their personal beliefs in class or at school events.

"No child should feel that a teacher is trying to impose religious beliefs, and this agreement ensures that this will no longer be the case at Sabine Parish schools," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "We're glad the school board worked with us to bring this matter to a quick and amicable resolution."

The Lane’s son transferred to another school in Many, Louisiana. An award of $4,000 was given to Sharon Lane to cover past transportation costs she incurred with getting her son to school there. The school board has also agreed to provide bus transportation going forward for him as he attends his new school.