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article imageTomah District Sued by Student for Religious Discrimination

By Samantha A. Torrence     Apr 1, 2008 in World
A student at Tomah High School in Madison Wisconsin is suing the school district for violating his First Amendment rights by restricting religious references in school work.
A student only identified by the initials A.P. alleges that his First Amendment rights have been violated when he received a failing grade for including religious symbols in an art project. The art project was of a landscape in which he included a cross and the words "John 3:16 A Sign of Love."
The art teacher, Julie Millin, confronted the student and told him to remove the cross and the scripture from his project claiming he was making other students uncomfortable. According to the teacher she was well within her rights to make the request and give him a "0" for not acquiescing to the request. A school policy, signed by the students prohibits any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. Millin claimed that by signing the document A.P. also signed away his constitutional rights.
The boy tore up the policy paper and was punished with two detentions for the action. Assistant Principal Cale Jackson defended Millin saying that the boy's religious expression violated the rights of others.
The lawsuit claims that A.P. was also met with the same attitude in his a metal shoppe class when he requested to make a chainmail cross and was not given permission because he could offend someone.
Other claims in the lawsuit state that other religious works of art can be found throughout the school.
Drawings of Medusa, the Grim Reaper with a scythe and a being with a horned head and protruding tongue hang in the art room and demonic masks are displayed in the metals room. A replica of Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Man” is displayed at the school’s entrance, a picture of a six-limbed Hindu goddess is in the school’s hallway and a drawing of a robed sorcerer hangs on a hallway bulletin board.
Also alleged is that a social studies teacher also teaches the principles of Hinduism and has Buddha and Hindu figurines prominently displayed in the classroom.
So who is right? Did the boy indeed sign away his first amendment rights when he agreed to the policy? Or was it unconstitutional for the school to forbid religious expression in the policy? More over can a minor be responsible for signing a legally binding contract?
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